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UN: Afghan-Bombing Report's Findings 'Unsubstantiated'

United Nations, 29 July 2002 (RFE/RL) -- UN officials say a draft report that casts doubt on the U.S. explanation for a bombing that mistakenly targeted Afghan civilians contains judgments that were "not sufficiently substantiated." A statement issued by the UN office in Kabul today says a comprehensive report is being finalized that will provide a more accurate picture of the circumstances surrounding the 1 July bombing incident in Uruzgan.

But the statement also called for an in-depth investigation of the incident to be carried out and said the protection of civilians must become a primary concern in the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan. Afghan officials say 48 people were killed and 117 wounded when U.S. aircraft bombed a wedding party in Uruzgun.

The statement follows a report in "The Times" newspaper of London today quoting a draft UN report as saying it found no corroboration of U.S. claims that its aircraft were targeted from the ground. The UN report also alleges that coalition troops removed key pieces of evidence from the area, including bullets, shrapnel, and traces of blood.

U.S. officials today denied any attempt at a cover-up and said a U.S. investigation was continuing. U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Roger King, speaking to reporters at Baghram Air Base in Afghanistan today, confirmed that a U.S. team had picked up shrapnel, bullet, and blood samples from the scene a few days after the attack. But he said there was no attempt at a cover-up and he said the U.S. investigation was continuing.

In other news, Afghan Transitional Authority President Hamid Karzai today appointed four new governors for the provinces adjacent to or near Kabul Province.

Presidential spokesman Fazel Akbar said Karzai appointed governors for Kunar, Laghman, Baghlan, and Logar provinces. Akbar said each of the new governors comes from a different region of Afghanistan than the province where he now heads the provincial administration.

Analysts see the move as an attempt by Karzai to mitigate the influence of some local warlords over several regions and even entire provinces.

Karzai named Moonshi Abdul Majid governor of Logar, Mohammad Ibrahim Babakarkhel as governor of Laghman, Sayed Mohammad Yusuf Shajan as governor of Kunar, and Mohammad Omar as governor of Baghlan.