The US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, has ordered an inquiry into a special forces raid on Uruzgan, central Afghanistan, on January 24, in which 21 local men were killed and 27 taken prisoner. Two of the victims were found shot dead with their hands bound behind their backs, fuelling suspicion that they were handcuffed and then executed.
The Pentagon first described it as a successful strike on an al-Qaida compound, then suggested the targets were Taliban fighters before being forced to release them last week when it emerged they were locals who had fought alongside US forces against the Taliban.
An alleged al-Qaida weapons cache supposedly uncovered in the raid turned out to be a pile of weapons confiscated weeks earlier from Taliban fighters and locked up.
The Pentagon's embarrassment deepened further yesterday when the newly released captives told US newspapers they had been badly beaten while in detention.
A Pentagon spokesman last week claimed the two victims found with their hands bound behind their backs might have been tied up by Afghan forces operating alongside US soldiers. But a survivor of the raid told the Los Angeles Times that he had seen his cousin lying face down in the dirt being handcuffed by American soldiers. He later found his corpse with gunshots in the neck, chest, and stomach.
In the face of a barrage of questions yesterday, the Pentagon press team, Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem and Victoria Clarke, refused to acknowledge the US military had made a mistake, saying the investigation was still under way. But the CIA is reported to have begun distributing compensation of about $1,000 (?700) to the bereaved relatives, in what appeared to be the clearest admission so far that something had gone badly wrong.
see the full story at http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,648866,00.html