Sunday, July 8, 2007

Here we go again: 144 civilians reported dead; NATO denies

The New York Times has a report on the all too familiar events in Farah and Kunar provinces over the last few days.

According to the Times, "the leader of a tribal council in Farah Province said Saturday that 108 noncombatants had been killed Friday in a NATO airstrike." Farah province is in the extreme west of Afghanistan, bordering on Iran. The report says that NATO forces were involved in the attacks:

“NATO soldiers, along with the Afghan National Army and people from the national police, came to Shewan Village and told us they needed to search three or four houses,” the tribal chief, Hajji Khudai Rahm, said in a telephone interview. “As we talked, a firefight began and 20 houses were destroyed when the planes dropped bombs.

“We counted 108 bodies, including women and children,” he said.
Meanwhile, in Kunar province (located near Kabul in the central-east region of Afghanistan), airstrikes on Thursday and Friday took the lives of more innocents:
... residents and officials in Kunar Province said 36 civilians had been killed in recent airstrikes, 11 of them on Thursday during a bombardment, and 25 more on Friday as they attended a funeral for the deceased.
NATO's hand was behind this operation also:

Maj. John Thomas, a spokesman for NATO, said the alliance had ordered airstrikes in both Farah and Kunar during the times in question.

True to form, the NATO spokesperson denied civilian casualties:

“We’re aware of the reports of civilian casualties but none of it tracks with the information we have, which is pretty extensive,” he said. “In both cases, we had good reconnaissance before and after.”

This last comment seems difficult to believe in light of reports that the area of Farah in question is in fact controlled by insurgents:

"The area is under the control of the enemy," [chief of Farah provincial council] Daqeq said. "No one can go to Bala Baluk to find out the exact number of casualties. I cannot go there, human rights officers can't go there, government officials can't go there."

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