THE HELL OF INNOCENTS

From Gary Jones in Ghani Khal, Afghanistan Artikel asal

THE shattered plastic clock stopped at 4.38pm... and so did the life of mother-of-three Ko Ko Gul.

The 30-year-old had begged her husband Mirza to leave their home at Arokey overlooking the front line battleground.

She thought her family would be safer in Ghani Khal, a tiny farming community close to the Kapisa mountains, four miles away.

Ko Ko was sewing a wedding dress for her brother-in-law Zarif's bride-to-be when a US fighter bomber dropped a 1,000lb bomb.

It landed just a couple of yards from where she sat cross-legged diligently stitching together the brightly-coloured material. It caused utter devastation.

Ko Ko must have heard the bomb plunging towards her rented two-storey mud-brick house because at the last moment she flung herself on top of her four-year-old son Lahi.

He miraculously survived the impact of the explosion that tore the building apart and was found laying silently in the debris, next to his mother. Lahi suffered only minor leg injuries. Ko Ko died instantly, the right hand side of her face cut away by the force of the blast.

A simple, but tragic mistake in plotting its target, had caused the US F-18 Hornet to drop its bomb on Northern Alliance territory - well away from the Taliban's military forces.

Yesterday, I stood in the spartan room where Ko Ko met her death. On the wall was a colour poster of the religious centre of the Muslim world, Mecca. Next to it was a photograph of the nearby bustling town of Jabal Saraj, a picture of prosperity before the six-year-long war against the Taliban took its toll.

The clock, covered in thick dust from the force of the blast, marked the end of Ko Ko's life.

Proudly positioned in the centre of the room, it was just about possible to make out a picturesque waterfall scene, behind its hands that had been so suddenly brought to a halt.

I bent down and in the rubble I picked out the yarn that Ko Ko had been using when she died. It was covered in blood, and impossible to make out its original colour. Her sewing machine lay in pieces, a cheap stove to brew green tea, next to it, crushed flat.

One other unknown person, a man, was killed in the mistaken bombing. Another nine were injured.

Ko Ko's two other young children all received slight injuries. Luckily, they had been playing in an adjacent room, which escaped the worst of the damage. Last night they were being treated in a hospital run by the Italian Emergency charity.

Ko Ko's husband Mirza was bringing in cobs of corn from his nearby field when the bomb killed his wife. Yesterday, he was too distraught to speak. He buried his wife yesterday morning, according to Muslim tradition, as soon as possible after the death.

Mirza's brother Gul said: "She was a lovely woman. My brother loved her dearly. They had a good life together. She was pretty, and hard-working, she had a good word for everybody. Nobody disliked her.

"I am angry the Americans should have killed her. They shouldn't have done this. Why should the innocent suffer? I don't understand.

"Ko Ko wanted to move away from the front-line. She thought her family would be safer here.

"She died saving her young son. That is a blessing. That is the kind of woman she was.

"We found Lahi next to his mother. I am sure he would have died if she had not protected him."

As we talked, Gul, a mujahedeen fighter, who had just returned from the front line, surveyed the lime-green embroidered pillow that Ko Ko had been sitting on before she died. "I cannot tell you how sad I am," he added.

Mirza's two sisters received more serious injuries in the explosion that brought down the 40ft-high walls that separated two homes. Wooden beams stuck out of the remnants of the once happy, family home. Neighbour Abdul Basir, 20, who saw Ko Ko lying dead - after the dust cloud that hung over the house had lifted - said: "We came quickly and found the children and adults in the rubble. Some were in a bad way.

"We climbed up to the second floor where I found Ko Ko. Her son was next to her. Her body had been cut open by the bomb. Fortunately, she did not suffer. I liked her a lot."

Abdul Ghafoor, 30, defended the American strikes against the Taliban, despite Ko Ko's death. "They have to continue," he said."This was a bad mistake, but the Americans must not stop bombing. We have lived with war for so long. We have come to accept such things. It does not make the sorrow any easier for us."

The village's Iman, or religious leader, Mohammed Qasim, told the Mirror: "It was wrong for this to happen but it is all the fault of Osama bin Laden. He has brought this war on the world."

We later visited the Emergency Hospital at Anabah, where Ko Ko's children were receiving treatment. All were in a stable condition, according to British medical co- ordinator Kate Rowlands.

"It could have been much worse," she said, "there have been a number of separate incidents where civilians have been injured because of the bombing."

Four females, including a five-year-old and 13-year-old girl were injured at 2am in Aroqi, close to the front-line, when their home collapsed throwing heavy mud bricks on top of them.

At Sang Borida, a man was hit by shrapnel from a bomb, receiving injuries needing surgical treatment. And on the Taliban side of the front-line, three civilians were hurt when a bomb exploded near them.

"We have treated 14 people in all," Kate added. "Seven needed surgery and two have been kept in for observation. Most of the injured had wounds caused by shrapnel, or other metal fragments."

Later, Northern Alliance Foreign Minister Dr Abdullah Abdullah said of the American bombing error: "This was a tragic mistake. One woman and one man were killed in what was the first time that a village was hit."

Dr Abdullah urged the Americans to co-operate more extensively with the Alliance to avoid a repetition of the incident. "These type of mistakes could be avoided," he said. "We are trying to help improve the accuracy of the American bombing.

"The US has said it regretted this has happened."

The minister revealed that the Taliban's military might on the front line had been severely dented by the most intensive bombing yet over the weekend.

"Three of their tanks were destroyed, and some other vehicles," he said, "there were also a significant number of Taliban casualties."

Questioned by The Mirror about when the Alliance might engage the Taliban and advance towards Kabul, Dr Abdullah replied: "When the American bombing is sufficient. If the US bombs as much as it did during Friday and Saturday then the objective of the eradication of terrorism could be achieved much more quickly. These stronger US attacks have paralysed the Taliban as a military force."

But Dr Abdullah expressed concern at reports that thousands of Pakistani supporters of the Taliban regime had amassed at the border with Afghanistan in a bid to cross and join the ranks of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda fighters.

"Thousands of new recruits are marching to join the Taliban. This has to be stopped."

"Pakistan has announced it is joining the war against terror and must take action to stop those who join in the battle against those trying to bring peace to Afghanistan

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