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Afghan Leader Says U.S. Raid Killed 10 Civilians

Kabul, 31 January 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai today said an Interior Ministry investigation has concluded that a U.S. air strike on a village earlier this month killed 10 civilians.

The U.S. military has insisted it killed five militants -- and no civilians -- during the 17 January raid against suspected Taliban leaders in southern Uruzgan Province.

U.S. spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Bryan Hilferty today said U.S. officials are studying the Afghan ministry report, but reiterated that the five men allegedly killed in the raid were clearly identified on a videotape filmed from a U.S. aircraft.

Karzai spokesman Jawed Ludin said the Interior Ministry investigation focused only on whether civilians had died, and had no information on whether militants also were killed in the incident.

Also today, Karzai denied allegations that he altered the country's new constitution before he signed it into law.

A group of about 20 delegates who were present at the Constitutional Loya Jirga, or grand assembly, that approved the new constitution earlier this month has said Karzai changed the wording in sections that covered official languages, presidential powers and duties, and the government administration.

But Karzai today said he had signed on 26 January the document handed to him by Sibghatuallh Mojadidi, the head of the Loya Jirga. Mojadidi was not immediately available for comments.

The constitution outlines a democratic Islamic state under a presidency, a two-chamber parliament, and an independent judiciary. The text also declares men and women equal under the law.