Sunday, July 19, 2009

Civilians killed in Kandahar

On Friday, July 17 in Kandahar city, Canadian soldiers forming a protective cordon fired on an approaching minivan, killing one civilian and injuring three others. Military officials say they suspect that the driver may have been testing the force's procedures, thus the man killed may not have been an innocent civilian.

Details are scarce, but the military's story seems suspect on the face of it: Why would five men risk their lives to gain such intelligence when just one or perhaps two would suffice? The Canadian Forces' Maj Mario Couture says they "strongly believe" in the men's nefarious intentions, but the only evidence offered is that the vehicle did not stop, that the men inside were "all males of fighting age," and that one of them fled the scene.

Considering that there were no explosives found in the vehicle, one wonders how they would be so confident. Did one of the men admit to criminal intentions? Are one or more of the men known to Afghan or foreign intelligence? If so, it would seem proper to publicize that evidence immediately to avoid the taint of suspicion later.

If the forces made their conclusion based solely on the behavior of the vehicle, then perhaps their confidence is misplaced. There have been plenty of incidents where Canadian and other NATO troops have fired on the vehicles of innocent civilians. It seems evident that, for Afghan drivers, it is not always possible to obey the foreign soldiers, whose hand signals may not be unambiguous.

In fact, Canadian troops operating within Kandahar city have a history of firing on innocent civilians at roadblocks. On one day last summer, one Canadian reporter witnessed three such incidents in the space of an hour.

Elsewhere in Kandahar:

U.S. helicopter killed Afghan civilians: report

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, July 17 (CP) – Afghan officials are investigating reports that civilians were killed in a U.S. air strike in Kandahar province.

Kandahar Gov. Tooryalai Wesa said today he's dispatched a delegation to Shah Wali Kot to investigate reports that five civilians, including a four-year-old girl, were killed in the air strike Wednesday night.

Canadian military officials said Canadian troops were not involved...

Local residents said at least a dozen people were injured in Wednesday night's operation in the area, located about 100 kilometres north of Kandahar.

Muhibullah, a 24-year-old farmer, said he awoke to the sound of helicopters, and he and his family ran outside.

"When we reached the garden, the helicopter shot at us and injured three of my brothers, one sister, mother, father and sister-in-law and killed Rahmania, a four-year-old girl," he said from his bed at Mirwais Hospital, in Kandahar city.

Muhibullah, who uses only one name, said there wasn't fighting at the time and said there were no Taliban in the village...

[Niamatullah, another resident, said:] "This is not fair, there wasn't Taliban in my village that night, we don't know the reason of bombing," he said at the hospital... (link)

Other reports say up to six civilians were killed.

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