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American military erased Afghan attack footage

March 5, 2007

Washington, D.C. - The Associated Press is to complain to the US military after journalists said US soldiers deleted footage of the aftermath of an attack in Afghanistan.

The Associated Press is to complain to the US military after journalists said US soldiers deleted footage of the aftermath of an attack in Afghanistan.

President Hamid Karzai said 10 people died when coalition forces opened fire on civilians after a suicide attack in eastern Nangarhar province on Sunday.

Journalists working for AP said US troops erased images of a vehicle in which three people had been shot dead.

The US military said it could not confirm its troops had seized any film.

'Co-ordinated attack'

The Americans say the fighting started when a convoy of marines was attacked by a suicide bomber and came under co-ordinated small-arms fire.

They say their soldiers returned fire, and acknowledge that at least eight Afghan civilians were killed, with a further 35 injured.

Thousands of local people took to the streets on Sunday to protest against what happened. The Afghan authorities have launched an investigation into the circumstances of the militant attack.

'You will face problems'

In a report from Kabul, the Associated Press (AP) said it "plans to lodge a protest with the American military".

A freelance photographer working for AP and a cameraman working for AP Television News say they arrived at the site about half an hour after the suicide bombing.

Witnesses at the scene said three civilians in the four-wheel drive vehicle had been killed by US forces fleeing the attack, the journalists said.

"When I went near the four-wheel drive, I saw the Americans taking pictures of the same car, so I started taking pictures," photographer Rahmat Gul said.

"Two soldiers with a translator came and said, 'Why are you taking pictures? You don't have permission.'"

Mr Gul said troops took his camera, deleted his photos and returned it to him.

His APTN colleague, who did not want to be named, said he was told he could film the scene - but when he did so a US soldier got very angry and deleted any footage that included the Americans.

Khanwali Kamran, a reporter for the Afghan channel Ariana Television, said the American soldiers also deleted his footage, AP reported.

"They warned me that if it is aired ... then, 'You will face problems,'" Mr Kamran was quoted by the news agency as saying.

Reporters Without Borders condemned the alleged actions of the US forces, saying they dealt with the media poorly.

"Why did the soldiers do it if they don't have anything to hide?" said Jean-Francois Julliard, a spokesman for the Paris-based group.

US military spokesman Lt Col David Accetta said he did not have any confirmed reports that coalition forces "have been involved in confiscating cameras or deleting images".

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