An American bombing that killed up to 90 Afghan civilians last month was based on false information provided by a rival tribe and did not kill a single Taliban fighter, the president's spokesman said Sunday.
The claim contradicted a U.S. contention that the Aug. 22 raid on the western village of Azizabad killed up to 35 Taliban fighters.
“There was total misinformation fed to the coalition forces,” Humayun Hamidzada, the spokesman for President Hamid Karzai, told The Associated Press.
Afghan police arrested three suspects accused of giving the U.S. military false intelligence that led to the bombardment, the Interior Ministry has said.
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An Afghan government commission found that up to 90 civilians were killed, including 60 children, a finding backed by a preliminary U.N. report.
The bombing strained the U.S.-Afghan relationship but the countries remain committed allies, Hamidzada said.
The operation, conducted by U.S. Special Forces and Afghan soldiers, targeted Afghan employees of a British security firm and their family members – the reason the U.S. military recovered weapons after the battle, Hamidzada said.
The U.S. has said its forces were fired on first during a raid that targeted and killed a known militant commander named Mullah Sidiq. But villagers say their homes were targeted because of false information provided by a rival tribesman named Nader Tawakil.
An Afghan parliamentarian has said Tawakil is in the protective custody of U.S. forces. The coalition has declined to comment.
“How the information was gathered, how it was misfed, and their personal animosity led to trying to use the international forces for their own political disputes, which led to a disastrous event and caused a strain on the relationship of the Afghan government and international forces,” Hamidzada said.
“Not a single Talib was killed,” he added. “So it was a total disaster, and it made it even worse when there were denials, total denials.”
The U.S. at first said that 30 militants and no civilians were killed. A formal military investigation found that the operation killed up to 35 militants and seven civilians.
But after video images showing at least 10 dead children and up to 40 other dead villagers surfaced last week, the U.S. said it would send a one-star general to investigate the strike.
Afghanistan's Interior Ministry said Friday three suspects had been arrested for allegedly giving false information to the American military, but it did not say who they were. Hamidzada and the Interior Ministry spokesman have also declined to say who was arrested.