Wednesday, March 19, 2008

US forces kill more civilians

In the province of Khost in southeastern Afghanistan, several civilians were killed by troops from the US-led coalition (Operation Enduring Freedom soldiers, rather than NATO soldiers from ISAF). Reuters has the story:

U.S.-led force kills Afghan civilians in raid

By Elyas Wahdat

MUQIBEL, Afghanistan, March 19 (Reuters) - U.S.-led coalition troops killed three men, two children and a woman, in a raid in southeastern Afghanistan, provincial officials and village residents said on Wednesday.

They said the victims, from the families of two brothers, were all civilians, but the U.S. military said the two brothers were involved in conducting bombing operations using improvised explosive devices.

The issue of civilian casualties is a sensitive one as it undermines public support for the presence of foreign troops and the pro-Western government of President Hamid Karzai.

"We will join the jihad" and "Death to Bush", chanted residents of the village of Muqibel in the province of Khost where the incident happened overnight.

Foreign troops raided two adjacent houses belonging to two brothers and killed three men, two children and a woman from the two families, district governor Gul Qasim told Reuters.

The children, both boys no older than 10, had bullet wounds to the head and chest, a Reuters witness said. ...

Troops discovered the bodies of a woman and a child in the buildings after the fighting, the statement said, blaming the militants for putting the woman and child in harm's way.

A son of one of the brothers said he was a member of the border police and had returned from duty for the funerals.

"I heard about it this morning and came here," said the son, Alefuddin. "I lost three members of my family and three members of my uncle's family ... they were ordinary people." ... (link)

The BBC's version of the story notes that "Oxfam said half of the 1,200 civilian deaths last year were caused by international and Afghan troops."

Even readers with short memories will recall that foreign troops have in the past several days killed Afghan and Pakistani civilians in several incidents. Last week, British forces called in an airstrike in Helmand which killed four civilians (two women and two children) while US-fired artillery killed four more civilians (two women and two children) when shots landed across the border in Pakistan (see my blog entry here). And yesterday, I blogged on a report that a NATO airstrike in Helmand killed unknown numbers of civilians - estimates are as high as 25 civilians killed (see blog entry here).

Recall also that NATO troops have been accused of opening fire on prisoners at the notorious Pul-e Charkhi prison outside of Kabul where there is currently a prison riot going on (see blog entry here). Reuters has the latest from the prison:
Inmates riot at high-security Kabul jail

KABUL, Mar 19 (Reuters) - Scores of prisoners rioted in a high-security Kabul jail and at least nine people were wounded in an exchange of gunfire as Afghan police tried to restore order, sources in two foreign aid agencies said on Wednesday.

A part of the Pul-i-Charkhi prison had been taken over by the inmates who said they were being illegally confined despite a decree by President Hamid Karzai acquitting them over a year ago, an aid agency worker said on condition of anonymity.

Some 150 inmates had been on a hunger strike for days demanding their release.

Unknown number of people, including several hundred suspected Taliban prisoners are being held at the jail which lies in the eastern outskirts of Kabul and earned notoriety for executions and torture during the communist rule in the 1980s.

"We know there were some shootings yesterday and the prisoners have taken control of parts of the prison," the foreign aid agency source said on condition of anonymity.

Nine people, most of them inmates, have been evacuated with gunshots and are being treated, another source said. ... (link)
The Russian Novosti news agency reports that over 70 inmates have sewn their mouths shut and are on hunger strike at the prison.

No comments: