Damage on display

Associated Press

KARAM, Afghanistan – Waving shovels and sticks, enraged villagers surged toward foreign journalists brought here Sunday by Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban militia to see what officials say was the devastation of a U.S. air attack.

“They are coming to kill us! They are coming for information, to tell the planes where to bomb!” angry and terrified villagers shouted as they charged the reporters. Taliban escorts held them back.

Sunday’s trip to the village of Karam in Afghanistan’s eastern mountains marked the first time since the U.S.-led air campaign began Oct. 7 that the Taliban have allowed international journalists into areas controlled by the Islamic militia.

The Taliban, who escorted journalists to the village, claim nearly 200 people were killed here Thursday. If true, it would be the deadliest single strike by U.S. and British warplanes.

The small village had clearly been hit by explosions. A number of houses were damaged or reduced to rubble, and several bomb craters were dug into the rocky landscape. Dozens of sheep and goat carcasses were strewn about, the air thick with a rancid stench.

But it was difficult to assess claims of casualty figures three days after the attack. Muslims traditionally bury their dead quickly.

Washington, D.C., has expressed regret for any civilian victims in its airstrikes, saying it doesn’t target noncombatants. It has acknowledged a stray bomb hit homes outside Kabul last week but has said it can’t verify the alleged Karam attack.

In the hospital in Jalalabad, 25 miles to the east, doctors treated what they said were 23 victims of bombing at Karam – one, a child barely two months old, swathed in bloody bandages.

At least 18 fresh graves were scattered about Karam, marked with jagged pieces of gray slate. Two were tiny – freshly dug for what residents said were children. Villagers said more bodies were buried up in the mountains, taken there by residents as they fled the now mostly deserted community.

An old man knelt by one grave in the village, sobbing. He looked up, furiously, at journalists and their cameras and lobbed stones to drive the outsiders away.

One villager, Toray, stood by the ruins of his former home, its roof gone. He clutched a scrap of metal bearing the words “fin-guided missile” in English.

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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