An Army spokesman today angrily denied claims by Mountain State residents that as many as 48 innocent civilians were killed, and 117 injured, in a July incident. “Our aircraft have repeatedly come under fire from anti-aircraft weapons in and around Ripley,” said Maj. Gary A. Pologist. “This was a precise military action against a carefully-selected military target.”
Residents of Ripley claim that they were celebrating the country’s birthday, and that fireworks, both formal displays and random informal displays, were the only rockets being fired from the ground. The town was crowded for an Independence Day visit from President Bush, and the attack by a helicopter gunship sent thousands scurrying for cover. The President himself was not injured, and is reported to have thought that the explosions were part of the elaborate welcome celebration local dignitaries had planned.
Maj. Pologist said that the Army had sent a team of investigators to the site of the alleged incident, and they could find no credible evidence that innocent victims had perished in the attack. “We sent in a team of highly-trained forensic experts for three days,” he said, “and they found nothing that would substantiate these rumors.” However, an Associated Press reporter wandering around town yesterday says that a dozen people he met on the street conducted him to a local cemetery and showed him numerous mounds of freshly-disturbed dirt which, in his words, “certainly had the appearance of newly-dug graves.”
Gov. Wise has demanded that Army officials clear any future strikes with his office, a demand rejected by the Army. “Such a policy would severely restrict our ability to respond to terrorism with the swiftness and flexibility that anti-terrorism action requires,” said the spokesman.
© Tony Russell, 2002