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|A village is destroyed.America says nothing happen|
|12/05/01 at 01:49:37|
A village is destroyed. And America says nothing happened
War on terrorism
Richard Lloyd Parry in Kama Ado, Afghanistan
04 December 2001
The village where nothing happened is reached by a steep climb at the
end of a rattling three-hour drive along a stony road. Until nothing
happened here, early on the morning of Saturday and again the following
day, it was a large village with a small graveyard, but now that has been
reversed. The cemetery on the hill contains 40 freshly dug graves,
unmarked and identical. And the village of Kama Ado has ceased to exist.
Many of the homes here are just deep conical craters in the earth. The
rest are cracked open, split like crushed cardboard boxes. At the
moment when nothing happened, the villagers of Kama Ado were taking their
early morning meal, before sunrise and the beginning of the Ramadan fast.
And there in the rubble, dented and ripped, are tokens of the simple
daily lives they led.
A contorted tin kettle, turned almost inside out by the blast; a
collection of charred cooking pots; and the fragments of an old-fashioned
pedal-operated sewing machine. A split metal chest contains scraps of
children's clothes in cheap bright nylon.
In another room are the only riches that these people had, six dead
cows lying higgledy-piggledy and distended by decay. And all this is very
strange because, on Saturday morning – when American B-52s unloaded
dozen of bombs that killed 115 men, women and children – nothing happened.
We know this because the US Department of Defence told us so. That
evening, a Pentagon spokesman, questioned about reports of civilian
casualties in eastern Afghanistan, explained that they were not true, because
the US is meticulous in selecting only military targets associated with
Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'ida network. Subsequent Pentagon utterances on
the subject have wobbled somewhat, but there has been no retraction of
that initial decisive statement: "It just didn't happen."
So God knows what kind of a magic looking-glass I stepped through
yesterday, as I travelled out of the city of Jalalabad along the desert road
to Kama Ado. From the moment I woke up, I was confronted with the
wreckage and innocent victims of high-altitude, hi-tech, thousand-pound
The day began at the home of Haji Zaman Gamsharik, the pro-Western
anti-Taliban mujahedin commander who is being discreetly supplied and
funded by the US government. The previous day I had followed him around
Jalalabad's mortuary, where seven mutilated corpses were being laid out –
mujahedin soldiers of Commander Zaman who had been killed when US bombs
hit the government office in which they were sleeping. And now, it had
There they were in the back of three pick-up trucks – seven more bloody
bodies of seven more mujahedin, killed when the guesthouse in which
they were sleeping in the village of Landi Khiel was hit by bombs at
6.30am yesterday morning.
Commander Zaman is a proud, haughty man who fought in the mountains for
years against the Soviet Union, but I've never seen him look so
vulnerable. "I sent them there myself yesterday,'' was all he could say. "I
sent them for security.''
But the commander provided us with mujahedin escorts of our own, and we
set off down the road to Landi Khiel. We found the ruins of the office
where the first lot of soldiers had died, and the guesthouse where they
perished the previous morning. And there, in the ruins of a family
house, was a small fragment of nothing. It was the tail-end of a compact
bomb. It bore the words "Surface Attack Guided Missile AGM 114", and a
serial number: 232687. It was half-buried in the remains of the straw
roof of a house where three men had died: Fazil Karim, his brother Mahmor
Ghulab, and his nephew Hasiz Ullah. "They were a family, just ordinary
people," said Haji Mohammed Nazir, the local elder who was accompanying
us. "They were not terrorists – the terrorists are in the mountains,
So we drove on in the direction of the White Mountains, where hundreds
of al-Qa'ida members, and perhaps even Osama bin Laden himself, are
hiding in the Tora Bora cave complex. A B-52 was high in the sky; a billow
of black smoke was visible, blooming out of the valley. Something,
surely, was happening over there. And then we reached the ruins of Kama
Ado. Among the pathetic remains I found only one sinister object an old
leather gun holster with an ammunition belt. It is conceivable that a
handful of al-Qa'ida members had been spending the night there, and that
US targeters learnt of their presence.
But after 22 years of war, almost every Afghan home contains some
military relic, and the villagers swore they hadn't seen Arab or Taliban
fighters for a fortnight. Certainly there could not have been enough
terrorists to fill the 40 fresh graves. One person told me a few holes
contained not intact people, but simply body parts.
We had been warned that white faces would meet an angry reception in
the village where nothing happened, but I encountered despair and
bafflement. I had only one moment of real fear, when an American B-52 flew
overhead. We halted our convoy, clambered out of the cars and trotted into
the fields on either side. The plane did a slow circle; I was conscious
of electronic eyes looking down on us, the only traffic on the road.
Then, to everyone's relief, the bomber veered away.
Before we left the city, an American colleague in Jalalabad telephoned
the Pentagon and informed them of our plans to travel to the village
where nothing happened. I can't help wondering, in these looking-glass
times, what that B-52 would have done to our convoy if that telephone
call had not been made. Perhaps nothing would have happened to me too.
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