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U-S Military Denies Cover-up in July First Air Strikes in Afghanistan - 2002-07-29


The U-S military has denied covering up evidence of air strikes against an Afghan village on July 1st which local Afghans say killed 48 civilians celebrating a wedding.

The Times newspaper in London said a U-N draft report found the United States may have covered up evidence related to the controversial attack.

But U-N officials in Kabul said the draft report was not fully documented and any conclusions drawn from it can not be described as "sufficiently substantiated."

A U-S military spokesman at Bagram Air Base (Roger King) says there was no cover up involved at all. He also denied that coalition forces had removed any evidence from the scene. However, a U-S fact finding team that went to the village in the Uruzgan province in central Afghanistan to probe the incident a few days later had collected several samples.

The U-S team said it made little headway as investigators were not shown any graves. But a second high-ranking team is currently carrying out a more detailed investigation. A Pentagon spokesman (Dave Lapan) emphasized that the first team took the samples openly in the presence of media and it was no secret. He said he can not comment on the U-N report because he has not seen it yet.

According to the Times, the U-N draft report was also unable to corroborate U-S statements that the AC-130 gunship involved had come under surface-to-air fire, explaining that it found no destroyed weaponry or ammunition at the scene of the attack. U-S military officials have insisted the gunship came under direct hostile fire from the ground. Local Afghans did report that the casualties came during a wedding celebration, during which it is traditional to shoot guns in the air.

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