Friday, August 17, 2007

Civilians continue to face catastrophe

On Tuesday, US aircraft began air strikes in the Tora Bora area of Afghanistan, a mountainous region in the east of the country famous as a former hiding place for Osama bin Laden. The air strikes have been supported by US and Afghan ground troops. Reuters reports that three separate villages have been attacked while "up to 30 civilians had been killed in the fighting. The U.S. military said it had no substantiated reports of any civilian casualties". While US officials claim to be striking at Al Qaeda and Taliban targets, insurgents in the area reportedly go by the moniker of Tora Bora Mahaz (Tora Bora Military) and claim to be independent of either the Taliban or Al Qaeda.

Meanwhile, "Two civilians were wounded in firing by the US-led Coalition troops" in Kabul on Thursday, according to the Afghan press.

It is perhaps no surprize that the above-mentioned incidents have received little coverage in the Canadian media; earlier this month civilian claims of catastrophe fell on near-deaf ears.

Bombing kills 200 civilians, say locals

Readers would be excused if they have not heard that locals in Helmand province allege that a US air strike killed some 200 civilians on August 2. From an IWPR report:

It was 3:00 pm on a Thursday afternoon in the small town of Bughni, located in the Baghran district of Helmand province. Hundreds of people has gathered for the traditional weekly market, or “mela”, where locals trade and haggle over everything from cows to carpets. Suddenly the bombs came, causing panic and reportedly killing upwards of 200 civilians and injuring many more. (link)

While US military officials claim that "there were no innocent Afghans in the surrounding area”, the photos in the above article tell a different story. And while the IWPR report was compiled in the days following the incident, the allegation of 200 dead was reported immediately in the Afghan press (see here for Pajhwok's report).

How did Canada's media report the incident? In a word, poorly.

While the August 4 editions of 5 canadian papers did carry a note about the incident (Edmonton Journal, Montreal Gazette, Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and Victoria Times-Colonist), only two papers (The Times-Colonist and Gazette) mention the claims by locals of 200 killed. The Globe article mentions "dozens of wounded" (including an 8 year old boy) and adds that a provincial official reported that "several Taliban and civilians were killed". The Star also mentions "dozens of wounded", including the eight year old. The Edmonton Journal relays reports of 18 wounded. [Only Times-Colonist article available online.]

No comments: