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THE GUARDIAN

Errant U.S. Bomb Hits Neighborhood

Saturday October 13, 2001 8:30 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) – A U.S. bomb missed its target in Afghanistan by a mile
Saturday because one of the target coordinates was entered incorrectly into
its satellite navigation system, a Defense Department official said.

A Navy F/A-18 Hornet dropped the 2,000-pound guided bomb in the early
morning hours over Kabul, intending to hit a military helicopter at Kabul’s
airport. Instead, the bomb hit a residential neighborhood a mile away.

A Pentagon statement said ground reports indicated that four people were
killed and eight injured; U.S. officials said they had no way to confirm
the number of casualties.

The error happened when someone entered the wrong digit for one of the
helicopter’s coordinates into the bomb’s Global Positioning System, a
Defense Department official said on condition of anonymity.

The bomb was a Joint Direct Attack Munition, or JDAM, meaning it was fitted
with a $21,000 tail section containing the satellite guidance system. The
military developed the system after the Gulf War to help guide bombs to
their targets in bad weather, darkness or other adverse conditions. The
guided bombs can be dropped from as high as 45,000 feet – far above the
range of Taliban anti-aircraft guns and Stinger missiles – and up to 15
miles away from their targets.

Four destroyed houses could be seen in the neighborhood near the airport.

“We have no way to rebuild our homes,” said Mohammed Shoaib, whose house
was one of those wrecked. “What will we do?”

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said the military is trying hard to
avoid civilian casualties. Saturday’s Defense Department statement said the
department regretted the loss of any civilian life.

Killing civilians could undermine support for the anti-terrorism mission
from Muslim countries. Unconfirmed Taliban reports of hundreds of civilian
deaths from the U.S. raids have helped fuel anti-American demonstrations in
Pakistan and other Muslim countries.

Military officials have said the airstrikes are becoming increasingly
focused on “targets of opportunity” that pilots spot from the air, such
as aircraft parked on the ground or convoys of troops for the Taliban, the
militia sheltering suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida
network.

U.S. planes returned to Kabul Saturday evening, firing seven missiles at
targets in the northern part of Kabul. Heavy smoke was seen from the area
of the airport. The private Afghan Islamic Press also reported attacks
against a military base outside Kandahar, the southern city home to the
Taliban’s headquarters.

Meanwhile, the State Department announced arrangements to expand American
troop operations near the Afghan border, but a British official involved in
the anti-terrorism campaign said there was no plan for “swarms and swarms
of troops all over Afghanistan.”

“There will be some activity,” said Clare Short, Britain’s secretary for
international development. But, she added in an interview with BBC radio,
“There isn’t going to be a mass land invasion.”

Under a new agreement with Uzbekistan, the United States pledged to protect
the security of the former Soviet republic on Afghanistan’s northern border
– in exchange for permission for the U.S. military to use an Uzbekistan air
base about 90 miles from the Afghan border.

Guardian Unlimited c Guardian Newspapers Limited 2001

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