| GEO World|
| US to begin new inquiry into Afghan civilian deaths|
| Updated at: 1807 PST, Monday, September 08, 2008|
KABUL: The US military has reopened an investigation into air strikes that Afghan and UN teams say killed more than 90 civilians after new video evidence emerged, officials said Monday.
The US-led coalition has steadfastly rejected the civilian tolls from the August 22 strikes on the village of Azizabad in the western province of Herat, saying only five to seven civilians died along with 30-35 Taliban rebels.
But it had agreed to a review on the request of General David McKiernan, the most senior US officer in Afghanistan, the US Central Command -- which is responsible for the region -- said in a statement Monday.
The Florida-based command "will appoint a senior US military officer to review the investigation into the combined Afghan National Army (ANA) and US Forces operation," said the statement forwarded by the US military here.
"This review will consider new information that has become available since the completion of the initial investigation," it said.
If the toll of 90 is confirmed, it would be one of the deadliest such incidents since the United States led troops into Afghanistan seven years ago to remove the Taliban from government and round up extremist militants.
McKiernan said in a statement late Sunday there was "emerging evidence" about the incident.
In light of this, "I feel it is prudent to request that US Central Command send a general officer to review the US investigation and its findings with respect to the new evidence," he said.
McKiernan heads the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which works alongside the US-led coalition, but he is the most senior US commander in Afghanistan.
He was referring to images captured on mobile telephone by one of the residents of the village, ISAF spokesman Brigadier General Richard Blanchette told a foreign news agency.
Some of the covers are lifted to show several children, some only toddlers, and at least one with the back of its skull blown off.
An Afghan investigation, appointed by President Hamid Karzai, said the dead included around 50 children aged under 15 years, 19 women and some men.
The team also said there was video evidence which it sent to its intelligence services.
A separate United Nations investigation came up with a similar conclusion but US officials reportedly cast doubt on the allegations citing lack of physical evidence.
The US-led coalition has said it called in the strikes after a joint patrol came under attack. It says the killed civilians were relatives of an important Taliban commander, who was among the dead.
Afghan locals say the strikes hit people gathered overnight ahead of a ceremony to mark the death of an important local figure, and seven to eight houses were destroyed.
The incident prompted Karzai to sack two senior Afghan army officers and his government to demand a review of the regulations governing the presence of international troops in Afghanistan.