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Afghans Protest US Bombing of Civilian Target As US and Afghan Officials Probe the Incident - 2002-07-04


A group of Afghans have held a peaceful demonstration in Kabul to protest the U-S bombing of what they say was a wedding party late Sunday, killing up to 40 civilians.

Dozens of women also participated in today's (Thursday's) rally in front of U-N offices, carrying banners denouncing the bombing in Uruzgan province. The protesters say they support the U-S led coalition forces fighting remnants of the ousted Taleban regime and the terrorist al-Qaida, but cannot tolerate U-S bombing of civilian targets.

A team of U-S and Afghan officials investigating the incident have toured the site of the attack - a village north of Kandahar.

A spokesman for the investigators -- U-S Major Gary Tallman -- told an accompanying pool reporter that U-S special forces teams had surveyed the region several times in the past two weeks, following reliable information that fugitive Taleban leaders were hiding in the area. He said on Sunday night (local time), U-S troops were preparing to search the village when they saw anti-aircraft fire and directed AC-130 gunships to attack the sites.

Local residents and Afghan officials maintain that villagers celebrating a wedding were firing into the air in revelry -- a tradition at ethnic Pashtun nuptials.

Residents showed the investigators and accompanying reporters that there were no weapons in the compound hit by U-S planes.

The investigating team saw blood stains and other remains. Residents said the dead had been quickly buried, according to their customs.

The investigators are expected to return to Kabul Friday.

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