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Investigators See Few Graves In Area of Alleged Afghan Raid - 2002-07-05


U-S investigators say they saw only five graves when they toured Afghan villages where fire from an American aircraft allegedly killed more than 40 people last Sunday.

Speaking to reporters at Bagram Air Base by telephone Thursday, team spokesman Major Gary Tallman said the group asked locals to show them the graves of victims from the incident in Afghanistan's Uruzgan province. He said the group was shown only one burial site with five graves in the village of Syansang.

Major Tallman said his team took photos of the graves, but he said it was difficult to tell if they were fresh. However, the Associated Press says a local man who claims he lost 25 relatives in the attack led its reporter to a hilltop with 25 apparently fresh graves in the village of Kakarak Thursday.

The investigative team returns to Kabul later today (Friday).

U-S officials have cautioned that it may take time to determine exactly what happened the night of the alleged air raid, news of which has angered many Afghans.

In Kabul Thursday, a group of Afghans held a peaceful demonstration to protest the attack. The protesters said they support the U-S-led coalition forces fighting remnants of al-Qaida and Afghanistan's ousted Taleban rulers, but they said they can not tolerate U-S attacks on civilian targets.

U-S officials have said an AC-130 gunship may have been responsible for the raid. Major Tallman said U-S forces believed Taleban or al-Qaida forces were in the area and that the gunship was called in to strike against enemy targets.

Meanwhile, U-S soldiers at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul celebrated Independence Day with barbecues and basketball games, amid tight base security. Military officials say security was stepped-up after the U-S State Department warned that terrorists might stage an attack on the patriotic holiday.

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