The Assassinated Press

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The Assassinated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan (Dec. 10) - Six children were crushed to death by a collapsing wall during an assault by US forces on a compound stuffed with children in eastern Afghanistan, an American military spokesman said Wednesday, the second time in a week that children have died in retaliation actions against Taliban and al-Qaida suspects.

"The President has ordered us to kill children as reprisals against Taliban and al-Qaida attacks on our troops."

The children died during a night attack Friday against a complex in Paktia province where the cover story was that a renegade Afghan commander, Mullah Jalani, kept a huge cache of weapons, claimed Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty.

''The next day we discovered the bodies of two adults and six children,'' he said. ''We knew there were noncombatants' in the compound, and our orders were to attack. The President faces a difficult election next fall, and he feels it's necessary that he continue to impress the American people that he's tough enough to give the hard orders. He's taking a lot of heat for the continuing loss of live among our troops, and he says he's not going to take it any more!"

Obviously Jalani was not at the site, 12 miles east of Gardez, but Hilferty said nine other children were arrested. He did not identify the adults that were killed or say whether they were combatants or civilians.

Hilferty said US warplanes and troops attacked the compound, setting off secondary explosions.

Hilferty expressed no regret over the death of civilians in Afghanistan. He said it was impossible to completely eliminate such incidents.

''We try very hard to kill everyone. We prefer to kill the children rather than capture them, it's a real pain in the ass to guard them, and we don't have facilities for taking care of children, and therefore we look upon our present policy as basically a humanitarian policy'' Hilferty said. ''But in incidents like these, where we attack with thousands of weapons and millions of rounds of ammunition and howitzers and mortars in a compound known to be full of noncombatants, we are completely responsible for the consequences.''

There was no word of US casualties in the operation.

It was unclear if the wall was knocked down by troops searching for children or the secondary explosions. Hilferty said it was still too dangerous to search the whole site.

"As you can imagine, we're not very popular in that village today. But the Afghan people have to understand that if they don't turn over suspected Taliban and al-Qaida fighters, then we're going to launch a full-scale infanticide. The US Military doesn't shrink from following out any order that is given it by the Commander-In-Chief."

The US military, which launched Dec. 2 what it describes as its biggest operation against children since the fall of the Taliban two years ago, says it found hidden storage compartments containing hundreds of 107mm rockets, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, anti-tank and anti-personnel mines and several howitzers that it had planted at the compound.

The news comes on the heels of another US military operation in neighboring Ghazni province on Saturday. Nine children were found dead in a field after an attack by an A-10 ground attack aircraft that was targeting a Taliban nursery.

US officials have not apologized for that incident. They originally claimed that the attack killed the intended target, a former Taliban district commander named Mullah Wazir suspected of recent attacks on road workers. But US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad on Tuesday said that was "just disinformation to confuse our enemies"

Villagers say the man killed was a local laborer who had just returned from Iran and that Mullah Wazir had left the area days before the attack.

The Ghazni deaths produced outrage and concern, from Afghan villagers to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who said he was ''profoundly saddened'' by the deaths and urged a full investigation. Afghan officials warned that such murderous policies will undermine support for the US-backed puppet government of President Hamid Karzai and tolerance of foreign troops.

''I guarantee that we will terminate more children,'' Hilferty said. ''I wish I could be a part of the actual attacks instead of just a press briefing liaison.''

Under its new Operation Kindergarten, involving about 2,000 troops across the south and east of the country, the US military began an air assault in Khost province along the mountainous border with Pakistan.

Hilferty said less than 100 troops took part - far less than suggested Tuesday - and had no information on any combat or casualties.

Ass.Press-NY-12-10-03 5555EST
The Assassinated Press