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Defense Department Says Three Bombs Went Astray

Defense Department Says Three Bombs Went Astray in Afghanistan

(U.S. helicopters fired upon, officials say) (520) By Merle D. Kellerhals, Jr. Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- U.S. warplanes inadvertently dropped three high explosive bombs in a northwest Kabul neighborhood and near a senior citizens' home in Herat during raids on Afghanistan October 20 and 21, Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke says.

An aircraft carrier-based Navy F-14 strike fighter on October 20 missed its intended targets and dropped two 500-pound bombs in a Kabul residential neighborhood, Clarke said October 23 during a Pentagon briefing. The intended targets were military vehicles parked in an area approximately 1/2 mile away. The extent of any casualties is not known, she said.

Then on October 21 a Navy F/A-18 strike fighter missed its intended target and dropped a 1,000-pound bomb in an open field near a senior citizens' home in the northwestern Afghan city of Herat, she said. The aircraft had targeted a military vehicle storage building at the Herat Army Barracks, approximately 300 feet from the senior citizens' home, she said.

"We regret any loss of civilian life. U.S. forces are intentionally striking only military and terrorist targets," she said. "We take great care in our targeting process to avoid civilian casualties."

The Pentagon has no information about claims being made by the Taliban government, and "we have no information on casualties," she said. The inadvertent air strikes were caused by faulty guidance systems in the bombs, she said.

Navy Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem, a deputy director of operations, said during the Pentagon briefing that U.S.-led coalition forces slammed 11 target areas with 80 aircraft, including 60 carrier-based tactical planes, 10 land-based planes and 10 long-range bombers.

The targeted areas included airfields, radar sites, Taliban ground forces -- which included armored vehicles and buildings both in garrison and in the field, lines of communication, military training facilities and some targets of opportunity, Stufflebeem said.

The Air Force also continued delivering humanitarian food aid, dropping 57,000 humanitarian daily rations October 22, bringing the total of U.S.-airdropped rations to nearly 750,000 food packages, Stufflebeem said. And the air cargo jets also delivered 30,000 blankets to Islamabad, Pakistan for distribution by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), he said.

Clarke said two U.S. Army helicopters came under attack in Pakistan October 20 while they were attempting to retrieve the wreckage of another helicopter that had crashed the night before. The two helicopters had stopped to refuel at an airfield when they came under fire, she said.

"While there, they took hostile fire, aborted the refueling, returned fire and departed," she said. Stufflebeem said U.S. forces do not know who was firing on the helicopters.

Another helicopter, an MH-47 Chinook, lost its wheels when it hit a barrier while returning from a covert commando raid over the October 20-21 weekend, Clarke said. Wheels shown by Taliban forces on Al-Jazeera television were from the U.S. helicopter, she said.

(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov) NNNN


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