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US warplanes mistakenly bomb Red Cross warehouses twice: Pentagon
WASHINGTON, Oct 26 (AFP) -
US warplanes mistakenly struck six Red Cross warehouses in Kabul -- two of them for a second time in less than 10 days --
and dropped a 227 kilo (500-pound) bomb into a nearby residential area of Kabul, the US military said Friday.
The US Central Command in Tampa, Florida attributed the blunders "to a human error in the targeting process" but did not explain how its forces made the same mistake twice.
The International Committee of the Red Cross reported no casualties in the bombing of the warehouses, which were filled with relief supplies, but it was not known whether anyone was killed or injured by the bomb that fell into a residential area 213 meters (700 feet) away.
The admission came amid mounting reports of civilian casualties, few clear signs of progress in the 20-day-old US air campaign against the Taliban, and the reported capture and execution of an Afghan guerrilla leader who the Taliban said was trying to organize a US-backed uprising.
"I don't personally believe that we are getting bogged down," said Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem, deputy director of the Joint Staff. "This is a very complicated operation, this is not traditional force-on-force warfare."
The campaign's commander, Army General Tommy Franks, he said, "is in a very deliberate way executing that on a timeline that allows the objectives that he wishes to bring back to the national command authority to be completed."
"There are those who are understandably frustrated that this is not happening faster or that a particular aspect of it is not being employed more. But I don't think they have the perspective that the CINC (commander-in-chief) does," he said.
"General Franks is satisfied, we're satisfied with the way that the campaign is being conducted," he said.
But in the latest bombing blunder, two Navy F/A-18C each dropped a 907 kilo (2,000-pound) satellite guided bomb on the warehouses in Kabul used by the ICRC, the Central Command said in a statement.
A third F/A-18C dropped a 500-pound bomb around the same time on the residential area, the command said, adding that "initial indications are that the bomb's guidance system malfunctioned."
That attack, which occurred around 8:00 pm (2400 GMT) Thursday, was followed eight hours later by two B-52H Stratofortress bombers that each dropped three 2,000 pound satellite guided bombs on the same complex of warehouses, the command said.
Two of the six warehouses were mistakenly struck on October 16 by US aircraft because they were believed to be used by the Taliban to store military equipment, the command said.
"The US sincerely regrets this inadvertent strike on the ICRC warehouses and the residential area," the command said.
The ruling Taliban has so far weathered the air strikes without cracking and continues to hold back opposition forces on the frontlines north of Kabul and in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
And in an apparent blow to US hopes of turning the Pashtun tribes in southern Afghanistan, Taliban officials said they had captured and executed legendary guerrilla commander Abdul Haq Friday and claimed that an attempt to rescue him with helicopters failed.
Stufflebeem said the Pentagon could neither confirm nor deny the reports.
"I have no reports that the Central Command was in any way aware of this, much less responded to it," he said, referring to Taliban reports that US helicopters made an unsuccessful bid to rescue Haq.
Meanwhile, Britain said it was mobilizing 600 elite commandos for an expected ground mission in Afghanistan and would leave in place 4,200 troops that were supposed to be returning home after an exercise in Oman.
Stufflebeem said the British contribution would give US commanders an added capability but did not signal a new phase in the campaign.
Summing up Thursday's air strikes, the admiral said about 80 US warplanes had struck targets around Kandahar, Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif.
The targets included caves and camps which, US intelligence said, were being used by Taliban and Al Qaeda forces, he said.
It was not know whether leaders of either Taliban or al-Qaeda were in the caves that were hit, he said.