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Default U.S. medical team attacked in Afghanistan

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[NYTr] U.S. medical team attacked in Afghanistan

AP via Boston Globe - July 6, 2005

U.S. medical team attacked in Afghanistan

By Daniel Cooney, Associated Press Writer

KABUL, Afghanistan --Rebels attacked a U.S. military medical team as it was
helping villagers in the same region of eastern Afghanistan where a U.S.
airstrike that killed up to 17 civilians sparked sharp criticism from the
government, the military said Wednesday.

No one was wounded in the assault Tuesday on the medical team near the town
of Asadabad in Kunar province, a military statement said. U.S. forces used
mortars to respond and the insurgents fled.

"It's incredible to us that the enemy would attack our forces while we are
providing innocent Afghans with health care," U.S. military spokesman Lt.
Col. Jerry O'Hara said.

The airstrike last Friday also was in Kunar and targeted a known terrorist
base, the U.S. military said, but an Afghan government spokesman said the
deaths of the civilians, including women and children, could not be

It marked unusual criticism from the government of President Hamid Karzai,
often viewed by critics as an American puppet. The United States provides
security for the president as well as hundreds of millions of dollars a year
in aid to Afghanistan.

The reprimand also highlighted Afghan government concern that deadly
mistakes could erode public support for the U.S. presence here. In the past,
Karzai's government has expressed interest in a long-term U.S. military
presence in the region as Afghanistan recovers from nearly a quarter-century
of war.

U.S. forces, meanwhile, spent an eighth day scouring mountains in Kunar
searching for the final member of an elite four-man Navy SEAL commando team
that went missing June 28.

One SEAL has been rescued, while the bodies of two others were recovered
Monday and taken to the main U.S. base in Afghanistan, at Bagram, a U.S.
military statement said. A transport helicopter sent in to rescue the four
was shot down the day the team went missing, killing all 16 U.S. servicemen

"We're, of course, doing everything we can to find the last of the four
SEALs. And it's a real priority, and something the president asked to get
briefed on this morning," U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley
told reporters aboard Air Force One.

Another U.S. military spokesman, Col. James Yonts, said, "We are conducting
a very aggressive, 24-hour, around-the-clock search for this individual."

"I can't go into detail but we are very hopeful that we will recover this
individual back into our care soon. We are working this very hard," he told
reporters in Kabul.

He said the U.S. military has 300 troops in the area as well as numerous

A U.S. military statement said the sole rescued serviceman was receiving
medical treatment for "non-life-threatening injuries" at the Bagram base.

The air strike that killed civilians targeted a house in the same area. The
number of people killed was still unclear, but "roughly half" may have been
civilians, while the rest were Taliban or al-Qaida fighters, Pentagon
spokesman Bryan Whitman said Tuesday.

U.S. forces described the house as "a known operating base for terrorist
attacks ... as well as a base for a medium-level terrorist leader."

"We deeply regret any loss of civilian life in the course of military
actions," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said the U.S. military takes "great
strides" in trying to be precise when targeting combatants.

"But these things do occur and we obviously regret when they do. And we'll
investigate to be able to determine what may have happened and how it can be
avoided in the future," he said.

Jawed Ludin, Karzai's chief of staff, said "there is no way ... the killing
of civilians can be justified."

An initial U.S. air strike destroyed a house, and as villagers gathered to
look at the damage, a U.S. warplane dropped a second bomb on the same
target, killing 17 people, including three women and children, Kunar
provincial Gov. Asadullah Wafa said.

He said it was unclear who was killed in the initial attack on the tiny
village of Chechal.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press.

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