American officials are still denying that US-led forces killed upwards of 90 civilians, as claimed by several investigations. This is perhaps not surprising, as it repeats the performance witnessed after the Nangarhar wedding bombing in July. Following that incident, US officials dismissed local claims of scores of dead civilians even as Afghan government officials and international journalists confirmed a body count of at least 47 civilians. And going further back, US officials also dismissed similar claims one year ago in Helmand province.This time, US officials have again called accusations of a massacre "Taliban propaganda," according to the BBC's Alister Leithead, reporting from Kabul. He also reveals that:
Every night for the past week the state-run national television station has been running stories showing strong anti-American feeling among Afghan people. (link)If US denials and civilian anger are not news, what is more surprising in recent reports is the background information. According to Fisnik Abrashi and Jason Struziuso of the Associated Press, it is indeed the case that American special forces accompanied Afghan army commandos for the ground portion of the operation.
What is more, these special forces were accompanied by an embedded reporter named Oliver North - yes, that Oliver North. Also, it appears the bulk of the apparent victims of the tragedy came from one family whose head was a security contractor to US forces in Afghanistan:
In a report after the raid, Oliver North, a Fox News reporter who accompanied the U.S. special forces unit during the firefight, interviewed an unidentified American major on camera who said credible information had come from a council of local tribal elders indicating a Taliban meeting would be held in the village.A top NATO official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the results of the U.S. investigation have not been released, said the U.S. and Afghan troops were fired on first when they moved into the village before dawn.Earlier posts on the Shindand incident here, here, here, here and here.
He said combat spanned several hours, during which troops called in airstrikes from Apache helicopters, AC-130 gunships and Predator drones.
The clash destroyed or damaged 15 houses, the official said. Afghan officials give similar accounts of the extent of the damage on the property.
The U.S. and Afghan troops stayed in the village until 8 a.m. and counted 30 dead — 25 militants and five civilians, the NATO official said. The target of the operation, a militant named Mullad Siddiq, was killed, and there were no reports of mass casualties among civilians, the NATO official said...
Ahmad Nader Nadery, the head of Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission, said his investigators concluded 91 people were killed in Azizabad: 59 children, 19 women and 13 men.
Nadery said 76 of the victims belonged to one large, extended family — that of Timor Shah's brother, who is named Reza. Reza was also killed, Nadery said.
Nadery said Reza, whose compound bore the brunt of the attack, had a private security company that worked for the U.S. military at nearby Shindand airport and was thus unlikely to be a Taliban member.
Afghan officials who were part of government investigative commissions claimed Thursday there were no insurgents among the civilians killed.
Nek Mohammad Ishaq, a provincial council member in Herat and a member of both government delegations sent to Azizabad, said that when he visited the village hours after the raid, he counted 76 dead civilians laid on the grounds of the mosque.
More bodies were brought out of the ruins the next day, he said.
"Some of them were decapitated, some did not have a hand. Each body was photographed," Ishaq said.
He said photographs and video of the victims were with Afghanistan's secretive intelligence service. The spokesman for the service, Sayed Ansari, would not confirm or deny that officials held such evidence... (link)