Afghan orphans lie in hospital after U.S. raids
By Zeeshan Haider
Monday October 15, 5:49 AM
JALALABAD, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Three tiny children lie alone in hospital cots. No relatives sit with them to comfort them, to help doctors change their dressings.
Four-year-old Gul Khan, Rehmat Bibi, who is three, and Jehang Bibi, just 18 months old, are orphans, said doctors at the Sihad-I-Amma Public Health Centre in the eastern Afghan city, Jalalabad.
Their families were wiped out in what the ruling Taliban say were two waves of U.S. bombing attacks which flattened their mud-and-stone homes in the poor and remote village of Khorum and killed up to 200 people.
The little trio are among the youngest survivors from Khorum, doctors said.
Nurses at the crowded 450-bed hospital say they have treated 17 injured from the raid last Wednesday night.
Taliban officials lifted a ban on foreign nationals to show reporters the destruction of the village and the casualties of what they say was an American attack.
His father cradles 18-month-old Azizullah Khan in his arms. The baby has a head injury. His three siblings and his mother were killed in Khoram, the father said.
"We were all asleep when the bombs fell," he said quietly. "My children have been killed, I have nothing. My house has been destroyed."
Nearby, one-year-old Ali Khan doesn't know that both his legs are broken. His father, Misha Khan, says the baby boy is all that remains of his family of four children. His wife too was killed as they slept, he said.
Officials say 160 bodies have already been pulled from the rubble. Villagers from neighbouring hamlets scrambled around looking for more on Sunday when a group of reporters accompanied by Taliban officials toured the area from Pakistan.
Washington has so far not commented on the report, although Pentagon officials have said at least one bomb missed its target, but that was near Kabul, since air raids in pursuit of Saudi-born fugitive Osama bin Laden began on October 7.
QUESTION OVER THE NUMBER OF GRAVES
Reporters saw only a dozen or so freshly dug graves that officials said included the bodies of children killed in the raid.
It was not clear what had happened to the other bodies officials said they had recovered: Muslims generally strictly observe Koranic requirements that the dead are buried before the next sunset.
Mohammad Wali, who is seven, said he was from Khorum and he too was unclear about what had happened.
"I was asleep and I don't know when the bomb fell," said the little boy, dressed in a torn and faded shirt and lying in the hospital with his eyes bandaged.
"I woke and I saw all my family were killed and the house was destroyed," he said. "I don't know who brought me here."
Mohammad Wali, unlike the three other orphans, at least has a relative who sat by his bed and stroked him gently.
Not all the casualties whom the Taliban say came from Khorum were children.
In the women's ward lay Jan Warrow, recovering from head injuries. Does she know her two sons were killed?
Nearby is Turbakai. She married just two months ago but while her in-laws were killed, her husband survived and sat beside her as nurses cared for wounds to an arm and leg.
Abdul Sattar, the hospital's nursing director, told reporters that 17 injured from Khorum had been treated in the hospital. Those numbers could not be independently verified.
But the shortages of equipment in the hospital were obvious.
"We are very short of surgical equipment, medicines and blood," Sattar said. "And we are running short of beds."
Another young patient arrived in the children's ward late on Saturday. Hazrat Bilal's father Lala Gul said the youngster was injured when a bomb landed near their home in the Majiburrabad district of Jalalabad.
"When this bomb fell, we panicked and left the house and rushed to the hospital," he said.
"I don't know what is our mistake," he said. "Why are we being targeted? We are innocent people."
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