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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Bombs Afghan Wedding, Kills 40

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Afghanistan's new regime was looking for answers Tuesday to why U.S. planes bombed a central Afghan village, killing scores of people.

The U.S. military said American forces came under fire. Survivors say the planes attacked a wedding in Uruzgan province, killing mostly women and children.

"We are sending a team to investigate, to find out what happened," said Tayyab Jawad, a spokesman for newly elected President Hamid Karzai.

New Tribal Affairs Minister Arif Noorzai will head the Afghan investigation team to Kakarak, about 282 kilometers southwest of Kabul, the capital.

U.S. Central Command, which is responsible for U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, said it was also sending a fact-finding team to determine what happened.

Bismullah, communications chief of Uruzgan province, said Afghans in Kakarak were firing weapons in the air during the wedding as is common in rural Afghanistan. He said about 40 people were killed and 70 others wounded.

But the U.S. military at Bagram air base, north of Kabul, questioned that account.

"Normally when you think of celebratory fire -- which is something that is not necessarily uncommon -- it's random, it's sprayed. It's not directed at a specific target," U.S. military spokesman Colonel Roger King said Tuesday at Bagram air base, the U.S. headquarters in Afghanistan. "In this instance, the people on board the aircraft felt that the weapons were tracking them and that they were making a sustained effort to engage them."

Noor Mohammed, leader of neighboring Gujran district, who also reported 40 people killed, said Afghans were "upset because innocent people have died."

The Central Command acknowledged in a statement issued from its headquarters in Tampa, Florida, that attacks by B-52 and AC-130 aircraft north of Kandahar "may have resulted in civilian casualties."

"The United States expresses its deepest sympathies to those who have lost their loved ones," King said. He said four of the injured -- all under 5 years old -- were treated by U.S. forces.

In the southern city of Kandahar, where many of the victims were taken, Afghans said the attack began at about 2 a.m. and lasted for about two hours. A nurse at the Kandahar hospital, Sher Mohammed, said he heard that about 120 people were killed.

Hospital officials said most of the dead and injured were women and children. One of the injured, a 6-year-old girl named Paliko, was brought to the hospital still wearing her party dress. Villagers said all members of her family were killed. Another injured child, 7-year-old Malika, lost her mother, father, a brother and a sister, according to neighbors who brought her to the hospital.

"We have many children who are injured and who have no family," nurse Mohammed Nadir said. "Their families are gone. The villagers brought these children and they have no parents. Everyone says that their parents are dead."

Uruzgan, like most of eastern and southern Afghanistan, is dominated by ethnic Pashtuns, who made up the core of the Taliban movement.

In these areas, where U.S. special forces and their coalition allies have focused their war against fugitive al-Qaida and Taliban elements, some villagers say they are being wrongly targeted for arrest or harassment as al-Qaida and Taliban suspects.