Thursday, March 5, 2009

Civilian body count

We saw here last week the ambiguous claims being made about an incident in Sangin district of Helmand. Some reports said civilians were injured by NATO troops, others claimed they were killed, but no numbers were forthcoming. Now it is revealed. From AFP:

Afghan, NATO probe says civilians killed in firefight

KABUL, Mar 2 (AFP) - A joint inquiry by the NATO-led international force in Afghanistan and Afghan authorities has concluded that eight civilians were killed during a recent battle with insurgents in the south...

In a joint statement, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force and the government of Helmand province said 17 other civilians were wounded in the February 23 firefight which erupted when an ISAF patrol was ambushed...

"They (civilians) were killed in fire from ISAF helicopters," Daud Ahmadi, the Helmand government spokesman, told AFP, adding that the force also used artillery during the fighting...

Meanwhile an Afghan court Sunday sentenced a man to death for giving false information to foreign forces last year about a rebel presence in a village in the west, leading to an air strike which killed about 90 non-combatants... (link)
Meanwhile, there's a whole lot of shooting of civilians going on, as reported in Reuters' Security Developments brief for March 2:
NANGARHAR - U.S.-led coalition forces shot at a car when it failed to heed warning signals in Jalalabad city, 115 km (70 miles) east of Kabul, wounding one civilian passenger on Sunday, the U.S. military said...

HELMAND - NATO-led troops wounded one Afghan boy when they fired mortars at two men they say were planting a roadside bomb in Gereshk district, 530 km (330 miles) southwest of Kabul, on Thursday, the alliance said.

FARAH - NATO-led soldiers wounded two civilians when they shot at a car they say was travelling too close to their military convoy in Farah, 650 km (405 miles) southwest of Kabul, on Sunday, the alliance said. (link)
And, finally, the Canadian Forces exonerated themselves in an investigation this week following allegations that left-over Canadian ordnance killed three children on Feb 23. Here's how the Globe's Graeme Smith reports on the military's investigation:
In an unusually swift examination of the site about 15 kilometres west of Kandahar city where the children died, Canadian investigators found a blast pattern and bomb fragments that they said proves Canadian ordnance did not cause the deaths.
Smith notes the villagers' "hard feelings are unlikely to be softened" by the announcement. However, in an effort to make nice, the Canadian commander has ordered his troops to stop using their back yard as a shooting range. As Smith comments: "The villagers have long resented the Canadians' use of the rocky wasteland near their homes for weapons practice".

February's toll:

February 5-6: US-led coalition forces in Zabul kill 6 civilians in an attack which targeted insurgents, say Afghan officials.
February 6: US-led coalition forces shoot and kill one man and wound a woman and child at a checkpoint in Khost province.
February 11: A provincial spokesman says NATO airstrikes kill four civilians in Logar province.
February 12: Five children are killed as Australian special forces battle militants while searching a house in Uruzgan province.
February 15: Three civilians are injured (one fatally) when NATO troops and insurgents clash in Sangin district, Helmand.
February 16: In Herat US forces kill 12 - 16 civilians in air attacks. An American investigation claims that 13 civilians and three militants were killed.
February 17: Two civilians in a vehicle are killed by NATO-led troops on patrol in the Maywand district of Kandahar.
February 23: Villagers report that Canadian weaponry killed three children in Panjwai district. Later, a Canadian military investigation exonerates the forces.
February 23: In a clash with militants, NATO helicopter fire kills 8 civilians and wounds another 17 in Sangin district, Helmand.

Total: 39 - 43 civilians killed.

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