Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Civilians dying to be liberated

Airstrikes in Kapisa province on Saturday reportedly killed numerous civilians:

19 civilians perish in coalition airstrike

MAHMOOD RAQI, Aug 9 (PAN) - 31 civilians including one woman and children were killed and injured as coalition troops bombed Tagab district in central Kapisa province, officials said on Saturday.

Maj. Gen. Matiullah Safi, police chief of the province told Pajhwok Afghan News that Jwe Bar village of the district was bombed at noon when two foreign forces were injured in a Taliban ambush in the village.

He said initial reports revealed that more than ten people have been killed in the bombing but it was not certain whether the killed were Taliban or civilians.

However a resident of the village told this news agency that the bombing took place after the attack of Taliban.

He said after the airstrike people gathered on the spot and the air force again bombed the gathering killing 15 people including a woman, four men and children.

A parliamentarian from Kapisa province, Haji Mohammad Iqbal Safi on the other hand said that Taliban attack took place in Korghal village while the airstrike was in Jwe Bar village which was eight kilometers away from Korghal.

He said that 19 people were killed in the airstrike who were all civilians... (link)
On the same matter, AP cites deputy governor of Kapisa Rahimullah Safi saying that only civilians died in the attack, 11 in all.

Predictably, the US has denied the report:
NATO Force Denies Afghan Civilian Casualty Report

KABUL, Aug 12 (Reuters) - The NATO-led force in Afghanistan has denied reports that it killed more than a dozen civilians in an air strike to the northeast of the capital.

Twelve civilians were killed and 18 were wounded when NATO-led forces carried out an air strike on suspected Taliban militants in Kapisa Province on August 9, according to provincial officials...

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) says it has conducted an investigation and maintains those killed were insurgents...

Insurgents fired on ISAF soldiers in Tagab district in Kapisa Province on August 9 but withdrew after two of their soldiers were wounded, ISAF said.

A surveillance aircraft later observed the men hiding their weapons and changing into civilian clothes, it said... (link)
In a separate incident in Uruzgan, eight civilians were killed by foreigners:
Afghan, U.S. Forces Kill 25 Taliban, Eight Civilians

KABUL, Aug 11 (Reuters) - Afghan and U.S.-led coalition forces killed 25 Taliban insurgents and eight civilians after an ambush in southern Afghanistan, the U.S. military has said.

The issue of civilian casualties has led to a rift between Afghanistan and its Western allies, with President Hamid Karzai saying on August 10 that foreign air strikes had only succeeded in killing ordinary Afghans and would not defeat the insurgency.

The Taliban launched multiple ambushes on a patrol in the Khas Uruzgan district of Oruzgan Province on August 10, the U.S. military said in a statement.

The militants "then fled into a neighboring compound where they held 11 noncombatants hostage, including several children and an infant," it said.

The insurgents then fired on the coalition forces from the compound and the troops called in an air strike, but the statement said they did not know there were civilians in the building.

International forces are permitted to call in air strikes when they are under attack, even if they cannot be 100 percent sure there are no civilians in the area. This is where most mistakes are made, NATO officials say.

Foreign forces say they do their very best to avoid killing innocent bystanders, but the perception among many, if not most, Afghans is that the troops do not take enough care and support for the presence of international troops is waning. (link)
The Kapisa incident in particular has riled Afghanistan's upper house:
Afghan senators call for govt control over foreign troops

KABUL, Aug 12 (AFP) - Afghan senators demanded on Tuesday that international troops operating in Afghanistan be brought under the country's law to make them accountable for mounting civilian casualties.

Parliament's upper house, or Meshrano Jirga (House of Elders), said it would draw up legislation to cover the operations of the US-led and NATO-led troops helping the government fight a Taliban-led insurgency...

The senators also demanded a timetable for the withdrawal of the soldiers, now numbering around 70,000... (link)

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