US releases video of Afghan grenade attack

KABUL – The U.S. military on Wednesday released a grainy video of a grenade explosion that killed two Afghans and wounded more than 50, while President Hamid Karzai ordered a government investigation into the incident.

The video shows about a half dozen soldiers working to free a large military vehicle that had run into a small median in the town of Asadabad on Tuesday in the northeastern province of Kunar.

A crowd of several dozen Afghans had gathered to watch the soldiers work. Then a bright flash can be seen. The camera zooms out and the Afghans hurriedly flee the crowded marketplace.

Some Afghan witnesses and officials, including Afghanistan's Ministry of Education, accused a U.S. soldier on Tuesday of throwing the grenade. But U.S. military officials and the Ministry of Interior said fragments from a Russian-made grenade were found at the site, and blamed an insurgent in the crowd for throwing the weapon.

None of the half dozen U.S. soldiers in the video can be seen throwing a grenade. However, the video does not make clear who may have thrown it.

The U.S. military said the video was taken by a stationary aerial balloon with a camera attached to it. The military, which has increased its use of social networking sites in recent weeks, released the video on Facebook and YouTube.

Karzai ordered his Ministry of Interior and local government officials to dispatch a "high-ranking delegation" to investigate. The statement from Karzai did not explicitly blame U.S. forces for causing the deaths and injuries, but he still used the occasion to chide American forces to be careful around civilians.

"Stressing the need to protect the lives and property of civilians, President Karzai once again reminded the international forces to make every effort to avoid incidents that lead to civilian casualties," the statement said.

Karzai has long pleaded with U.S. forces to reduce the number of civilian casualties that occur during military operations. However, U.S. officials say Taliban militants often try to cause civilian deaths in the hopes that the negative publicity will harm the U.S. effort in Afghanistan.

Several witnesses and victims wounded in Tuesday's blast told The Associated Press that they saw a U.S. soldier fire a grenade launching weapon. Others said they saw a soldier reach into his pocket and throw a grenade.

Those allegations appear to have been discredited because of the fragment of the Russian grenade that was found, and show the difficult environment U.S. forces face in trying to win over conservative Afghan tribes that live near the Pakistan border.


On the Net:

U.S. military's Facebook site:

U.S. military's YouTube site:

A black panther cub is seen in the grass at the Tierpark zoo in Berlin. AP Photo/Maya Hitij