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In this there is a predicament for Smith. The dead boys' brother Sayed Rasoul was not overly impressed with Karzai's thousands, so what is he likely to make of Smith's ''hundreds' of dollars''?

in, guns blazing, and the boys who had wandered about a kilometre from their home and the animals were dead.

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Two small boys are happily collecting brushwood that will fetch two, maybe four dollars at the bazaar in a remote Afghan village. Suddenly, they face a Hollywood moment a $12 million American Apache helicopter swoops in, blasting them and their pack donkeys to oblivion.

When the boys set out last Thursday, they were in good spirits, he said.

Precisely what happened remains unclear. On the basis of information released and leaked, it seems Australian troops on the ground nearby "became aware of an imminent threat" and had called for air cover. The Apache helicopter swept Ny Hat

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President Hamid Karzai contacts the grieving family to apologise and the media to complain about the foreign troops. Contrite military officers from the coalition countries involved, in this case Australia and the US, come to offer condolences and compensation and the same phrases are trotted out ''fog of war,'' ''rules of engagement,'' ''terrible tragedy''.

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He said he appreciated the sentiment in the President's phone call, that it comforted the family. But of the amount apparently on offer from Kabul, he was withering: "It's stingy. They have no guts," he said. "It's not a lot of money, is it?"

But it seems the Kabul government can afford to be significantly more generous. The governor said the family was to get 175,000 afghani (about $3500) for the death of each child.

Times are not precise because the village is a world without clocks and watches but Sayed Rasoul said that not long after they left, there was a lot of noise the roar of engines, then guns, exploding.

And Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith figures a few hundred dollars' compensation will square it all away?

the governor said: "I have no doubt that this was an accident or a mistake. But there's no doubt too that these are children innocent small boys from a poor family."

The governor was not aware of Taliban activity at the time the boys died. But a week earlier there had been a two bomb strike the first to draw in the police and a second, which detonated on their arrival, killing one and injuring three.

They had never been to school. The circumstances of their Australian or US counterparts were beyond their ken mobile phones, laptops and video games; perhaps an after Nhl Caps

But since the death of their father Abdul Ali from illness last year, these boys had come to understand their place in the fragile calculations of an impoverished family eking out an existence in culture that loads hardship on widows and their families.

But the dead boy's older brother said they did not feel as though they lived in a war zone. "We don't live in a scary place," he said. "And we don't think much about the war."

school ride in the family car to ballet or soccer practice; probably meat or fish for dinner most nights probably.

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"It's very sad. My mother is still crying and that makes us all cry," he said of his surviving three brothers and two sisters who, as Kuchi nomads have settled and live with the family of an uncle in separate tents within a mud walled compound in a hamlet of eight or 10 families. "I miss them; we all miss them."

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The boys knew they had to stay out long enough to gather as much firewood as they could, but also to get back to the village while there were still buyers in the bazaar, their brother Sayed Rasoul, 16, said in an interview on a phone borrowed from a policeman and relayed through a translator in Kabul.

It took Nike Caps White Leigh Sales of the ABC program 7.30 to draw out Smith on the specifics of any payout to the family from what he called the ''tactical payment system''.

On a good day the boys might pull 100 or 200 afghanis $2 or $4. "No, they didn't have time for play or games," said Sayed Rasoul, clearly confused by a question on how the boys might entertain themselves for the rest of their day. "They had to be back to help our mother milking our 11 sheep and making the yoghurt and cheese which we sell."

Also speaking by phone and on relay through the Kabul translator, Denver Nuggets Hat

The household income was rounded out by whatever Sayed Rasoul might earn as a day labourer weeding opium poppies, harvesting grain or slopping mud on a building site. The furthest he had travelled from the village was to the provincial capital, Tarin Kowt, and he had seen a television in the bazaar, but their village had no electricity.

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The Defence Minister told her: ''Given Afghanistan's circumstances and economy, we're talking in the hundreds rather than in the thousands [of dollars]".

Confusingly, the district governor in Charchino has the same name as the brother of the dead boys Sayed Rasoul. But they are not related. The governor remains perplexed.

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Life for the boys in a far flung corner of Oruzgan province had its own easy rhythm. Rising with the sun last Thursday, Toor Jan, 7, and his brother Odood, 6, had a breakfast of flat, leathery bread and sweetened tea before heading out with the family donkeys for their daily chore to scour the local flats and slopes for the kindling that fuels the cooking fires of Dwan, their village and others near Shahidi Hassas, the centre of Charchino district.

He described a flat, open area near a stream and in the middle distance, hills.

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donkeys. We picked them up and we were taking them to the graveyard when the police arrived.

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"I've been out there with the police," he said. "The area is a desert and there is nothing to obstruct vision no walls, no trees. They had to be identifiable as children."

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A few hundred dollars cannot square away the deaths of village boys

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Deaths like these have their own ritual in Afghanistan, where the United Nations estimated 2700 civilians died last year.

"We went out and found them lying on the ground, all dead and broken my brothers and the

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