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Clarke Addresses Protecting Civilians, Taliban Lies

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 23, 2001 – Even with the extraordinary care U.S. forces take to avoid hitting civilian targets, accidents happen.

Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clarke said two incidents Oct. 20 may have resulted in civilian casualties in Afghanistan.

One incident occurred during operations Saturday. She said a Navy F-14 Tomcat fighter missed its intended target and dropped two 500-pound bombs that hit a residential area northwest of Kabul. "The intended targets were military vehicles parked in an area approximately one half mile away," she said.

On Sunday, an F/A-18 Hornet fighter missed its target and dropped a 1,000-pound bomb in a field near a senior citizens home near Herat. "The intended target was a vehicle storage building at the Herat army barracks, approximately 300 feet from the facility," she said.

Both incidents appear to be malfunctions in the weapon guidance systems of the bombs, she said.

"We take extraordinary care in the targeting process," she said. "Our targets are military, our targets are Al Qaeda. That is what we're going after. There is unintended damage. There is collateral damage. Thus far, it has been extremely limited.

"We care deeply about the loss of life. Unlike the people who on Sept. 11 went to great pains to kill thousands of innocent people."

Clarke also addressed Taliban claims that they shot down a U.S. helicopter during the special operation into Afghanistan on Friday. Taliban officials have been showing a helicopter landing gear as proof of the shootdown. "The wheels shown on Taliban TV were from a U.S. MH-47 helicopter," she said.

She said that during the mission, the helicopter's main front landing gear rammed some sort of a barrier. This tore the wheel off. "The aircraft continued its mission and returned safely," she said. "There was no further damage to the aircraft and no injuries to the crew."

Finally, she addressed a Saturday incident in Pakistan. A U.S. heavy lift helicopter went to retrieve a crashed Black Hawk helicopter. The crew sling-loaded the chopper and flew to a Pakistani airfield to refuel. At the airfield, the chopper took ground fire. The crew aborted the mission, returned fire and departed. There were no U.S. casualties.

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