Thursday, September 27, 2007

Civilians killed in Uruzgan, Kunar; US troops open fire on crowd

Taliban: stronger or weaker?
While the Globe and Mail tells us that Afghan insurgents are "weaker than last year", a Washington Post dispatch says "the Taliban is enjoying a military resurgence in Afghanistan and is now staging attacks just outside the capital". It goes on:

... attacks in June and July were 80 to 90 percent higher than the same period last year, showing a general escalation in the conflict, rather than seasonal fluctuations.

"Attacks have spread across the entire southeast border area, with a rapid escalation in the east, and in the last four months in the center", [says an NGO official].
Which is right? Maybe both.
Canadian troops, operating out of the enormous Russian-built, American-run Kandahar Airfield (KAF), are mostly concerned with Panjwai and Zhari districts. Meanwhile, according to an IRIN dispatch, other districts of Kandahar are seeing residents leave in droves (while refugees flock to Kandahar City); parts of Helmand and Uruzgan have seen the same. These latter two provinces have between them been the site of over 160 Taliban insurgents' deaths in recent days, according to foreign forces.

Uruzgan: 10 civilians reported dead
It was in Uruzgan province that
"more than three dozen insurgents were killed as they prepared an ambush," read another US military statement released on 26 September.

The US military said three non-combatants were wounded in the crossfire and evacuated to a military medical facility in Uruzgan Province. Local people, however, said at least 10 civilians died in the military operations. (link)
Kunar: 8 civilians dead
In Kunar's Asadabad district, a long time Taliban stronghold and scene of intense fighting in the last few days, an military operation by foreign forces was said to have killed 18 insurgents, though locals said otherwise:
People who said they were wounded in the operation were treated in a hospital in the provincial capital Asadabad, and said around eight civilians were killed.

"Four of my daughters are killed and my husband's second wife has also been killed in the bombing," said a woman who gave her name as Tella Gulla.

The US Air Force describes their part in the event thusly:
An Air Force B-1B Lancer targeted enemies firing on coalition forces in Asadabad with guided bomb unit-31s and guided bomb unit-38s to suppress enemy fire. The on-scene joint terminal attack controller reported the firing positions were suppressed.

An Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle struck enemies on a ridgeline in Asadabad with a GBU-12. The JTAC confirmed the weapon hit its target and the desired result was achieved.

Other F-15Es in Asadabad targeted enemies in a cave with GBU-31s. The JTAC confirmed the target was destroyed

Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt IIs strafed enemies in Asadabad with cannon fire. The JTAC confirmed the rounds hit the target and the desired result was achieved.

Also in Asadabad, A-10s conducted shows of force to deter enemy attacks. The show of force was reported as successful by the JTAC. (Sept 27 airpower summary)
In Nangarhar province, US forces opened fire on civilians after a failed suicide bombing attempt followed by a car accident:
A spokesman for U.S.-led coalition forces said only one soldier had opened fire. "A U.S. servicemen fired two shots and those shots were away from the crowd and not directed toward the crowd," said Major Joe Klopple. ...

[Reuters correspondent Noor Mohammad] Sherzai and other reporters at the scene said many shots were fired and Afghan police were among those fleeing the scene. "I was running away as fast as I could, but some of the police overtook me," Sherzai said.

The police, he said, "were very angry because the Americans were shooting and wanted to shoot back but others stopped them". "A bullet hit the ground between my legs while I was running," said Takiullah Taki, a cameraman for private Afghan channel Tolo TV.

"Some Afghan national police wanted to shoot back, but others said that would make the situation deteriorate further so they did not." (link)

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