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Videos of dead children challenge U.S. account

The bodies of at least 10 children and many more adults covered in blankets and white shrouds appear in videos obtained by The Associated Press on Monday, lending weight to Afghan and U.N. allegations that a U.S.-led raid last month killed more civilians than the U.S. reported.

The sounds of wailing women mixed with the shouting of men inside a white-walled mosque in the western village of Azizabad, where an Afghan government commission and U.N. report said some 90 civilians – including 60 children and 15 women – were killed.

The two grainy videos, apparently taken by cell phones, showed bodies side-by-side on the floor, covered by floral-patterned blankets and black-and-white checkered shawls. One boy lay in a fetal position; others looked asleep. One child had half its head blown off.

Turbaned men walked around, gently lifting blankets covering the faces of the dead. At least two elderly men were among the dead. There appeared to be several dozen bodies, though a precise count was difficult.

The videos do not prove 60 children died in the operation, but they do appear to contradict a U.S. military investigation that found only seven civilians were killed in Azizabad, along with up to 35 militants.

The U.S. said Sunday it would reopen the investigation because of emerging evidence. Monday, a Pentagon spokesman said new “imagery evidence” over the weekend came to the attention of Gen. David McKiernan, the American commander of the NATO-led force here.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said a general to be sent to Afghanistan by U.S. Central Command will review the initial investigation. But it is also possible there will be a new inquiry - this time by Central Command, said Lt. Cmdr. Bill Speaks, a spokesman for the command in Tampa, Fla.

Afghan officials say U.S. special forces and Afghan commandos raided the village as hundreds of people gathered in a large compound for the memorial service of a tribal leader, Timor Shah, who was killed eight months ago by a rival, Nader Tawakal.

The U.S. investigative report released last week said American and Afghan forces took fire from militants while approaching Azizabad and that “justified use of well-aimed small-arms fire and close air support to defend the combined force.”

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