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TOI: Why is America attacking the innocent? [Karam Tragedy]
By TimesIndia

15/10/2001 12:13 pm Mon

Why is America attacking the innocent?

KARAM: A US bomb intended for a training camp of Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network instead decimated this hamlet of impoverished Afghan farmers, demolishing dozens of homes and wiping out whole familes, residents said on Sunday.

A group of international journalists taken to the village by Afghanistan's ruling Taliban were greeted with scenes of devastation and angry protests by locals demanding to know why America's wrath had been directed at them.

Dozens of houses had been reduced to empty, roof-less shells or razed to the ground. An unexploded bomb lay just metres from the edge of the village and the stench of rotting flesh still hung in the air.

The village has been abandoned since the attack took place in the early hours of Thursday morning. But people returned on Sunday, apparently at the instigation of Taliban officials, to scream anti-American slogans and recount their stories.

Villagers' estimates of the death toll varied between 180 and 230 in a settlement of mud-brick houses that could not have been home to more than 400 people. There was no way of verifying their estimates of the numbers of people killed.

"One hundred and eighty people died here. Why are the Americans attacking our innocent people?" one villager, Gul Ahmed, told AFP.

Haji Naziz asked: "I have lost my nearest and dearest. Why have they been killed? What is our crime?" Another villager, Ziarat Jul, said more than 230 people had been killed.

Abdul Rasool, 40, said his was one of the homes destroyed. His wife, whose name he did not want to give, and three sons, Satik, 6, Turial, 10 and Pardes, 15, were all killed, he said.

Rasool said he had escaped because, as he has done every day of his adult life, he had risen before dawn to attend morning prayers. He was on his way home, at around 5.00 am, when the bomb struck.

"I heard a huge bang and I ran to my house but there was nothing I could do. It was completely destroyed," he said. "My family, all my animals are dead. I have nothing left. Why has this happened to me?" Alam Gul, 18, said he had lost both his parents, four brothers, and two sisters.

Qudra Ula, 35, a resident of a neighbouring village, said he had recovered 15 bodies from the rubble of collapsed houses and taken them to be buried.

The village of Karam is located around 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad.

The region, believed to have been home to a number of al-Qaeda training camps, has been repeatedly attacked since the airstrikes began on September 7.

But the residents of Karam denied that there had been a training camp in the area. "Where is Osama, just show me," said Gul Ahmed.

The reported victims at Karam were among more than 300 civilians which the Taliban says have been killed since the airstrikes began. Only a handful of these have been confirmed independently.

The US defence department has not commented on the incident in Karam but has confirmed that a 2,000-pound (907-kilo) bomb aimed at a military helicopter hit a residential area near Kabul airport on Saturday.