US soldiers kill 16 Afghan civilians in revenge


Afghan refugees demonstrate against being sent back to unsafe Afghanistan

By Bill Van Auken:

Highway massacre sparks anti-US protests in Afghanistan

5 March 2007

The slaughter of some 16 civilians and the wounding of at least two dozen more by US troops in Afghanistan Sunday sparked angry protests demanding a withdrawal of the occupation forces and the ouster of Washington’s puppet, President Hamid Karzai.

The killings took place on a main highway between the Afghan town of Jalalabad and the Pakistani border after a suicide bomber detonated a car loaded with explosives near a convoy of US Marines.

Both eyewitnesses to the incident and some Afghan officials described the US troops firing indiscriminately at civilians in their vehicles and on foot in angry retaliation for the suicide attack.

See also here.

Associated Press reports:

Afghan journalists covering the aftermath of a suicide bomb attack and shooting in eastern Afghanistan said U.S. troops deleted their photos and video and warned them not to publish or air any images of U.S. troops or a car where three Afghans were shot to death.

Other Afghan civilians elsewhere also killed: here.

And here.

And here.

Northern Afghanistan: here.

Tariq Ali on Afghanistan: here.

5 thoughts on “US soldiers kill 16 Afghan civilians in revenge

  1. String of Afghan Deaths Cause Outrage

    The Associated Press

    By JASON STRAZIUSO

    March 06, 2007

    No single shot was fired from our village or vehicle toward the Americans.

    On a trip to the market, Haji Lawania says he drove his gray SUV into a hail of U.S. gunfire that shattered his windshield and killed his father, nephew and a village elder.

    The three companions, who died Sunday in the aftermath of a suicide bombing in eastern Nangarhar province, are among 40 civilians whose deaths this year could be attributed to NATO or U.S. action, according to an Associated Press tally based on figures from military and Afghan officials.

    The high number of casualties and fresh accusations that Marines fired on civilians along miles of highway have sparked rage everywhere from dusty streets to the halls of parliament, threatening to turn the support of wavering Afghans against U.S. and NATO troops and, more ominously, President Hamid Karzai’s fledgling Western-backed government.

    NATO spokesman Col. Tom Collins said civilian casualties are caused ‘overwhelmingly’ because militants operate in populated areas, hiding in civilian homes after attacks and setting off suicide bombs in public.

    But he acknowledged the harm the deaths do to the international mission’s image.

    ‘It would seem to me that the enemy benefits when (NATO) forces take what we consider appropriate action against threatening behavior,’ Collins said. ‘Nonetheless, the enemy is able to gain from that because there is this perception that we’re shooting people, civilians.’

    Karzai has pleaded repeatedly for Western troops to operate with care, but the long list of civilian deaths since 2001 seems only to grow. The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch estimates that more than 100 Afghan civilians died as a result of NATO and coalition assaults in 2006.

    In three separate incidents Sunday and Monday, Afghan witnesses and officials said U.S. military action may have killed up to 20 civilians _ up to 10 shot by Marines after the suicide bombing, nine killed in an airstrike after Taliban fighters sought refuge in a home, and one shot and killed after driving too close to a convoy.

    At the site of the suicide bombing and gunfire in Nangarhar province, police estimated that 4,000 Afghans staged an angry but peaceful demonstration Tuesday. One sign read: ‘Killer Bush! Stop the Killing of Afghans. Down with America.’

    ‘Afghan civilians are angry about the security situation today,’ said John Sifton, a researcher on terrorism for Human Rights Watch. ‘All parties need to work harder to ensure that the conflict doesn’t fall heavy on civilians.’

    Lawmakers in Afghanistan’s upper house of Parliament expressed outrage Tuesday at the recent killings, and lawmaker Mohammad Hassan Otak said they would summon the NATO commander, the defense and interior ministers and a U.N. representative to address the matter.

    ‘If it happens again, we will not sit by quietly,’ Otak said. ‘This kind of action ruins the dignity of the government, and if it is repeated the coalition will lose the trust of the Afghan people, and they may not sit by quietly either.’

    A senior Afghan official said the government has repeatedly told the U.S. and NATO that civilians must not be harmed during operations, and that top generals have always agreed with those demands.

    ‘To what extent that is followed through down the chain of command I can’t say,’ the official said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

    Afghan witnesses in Nangarhar province say Marines opened fire along a six-mile stretch of road, wounding 34 Afghans, including Lawania, in addition to the 10 killed.

    ‘We were about to turn onto the main road when we heard the suicide explosion,’ Lawania, 45, said by telephone from the hospital. ‘Suddenly on the main road I saw the Humvees. They opened fire on us even though we’d stopped on the side road.

    ‘Maybe the Americans thought we were a second suicide attacker, so they opened fire. Otherwise there’s no reason to shoot up civilian cars.’

    The U.S.-led coalition says militant gunmen shot at Marines and may have caused some of the casualties, but no Afghan officials or witnesses have yet corroborated that account.

    ‘Did I see any militants? If you want to ask me this question, you must trust me first,’ said Lawania, who may lose his right hand because of the bullet injury. ‘No single shot was fired from our village or vehicle toward the Americans.’

    Lawania’s SUV took about 100 bullets. A U.S. soldier made four Afghan journalists _ including two AP cameramen _ erase photos and videos of the car.

    Still, new revelations about an attack later Sunday night in Kapisa province suggest that militants are indeed using civilian homes for cover.

    Militants fired rockets at a U.S. base, then dashed into a nearby home. A U.S. airstrike then destroyed that home in an attack which killed nine people including four young children.

    Sayed Mohammad Dawood Hashimi, the deputy governor of Kapisa province, said the house’s owner was a known militant named Mirwais who had fired rockets at the U.S. base. He was hurt in the strike but managed to flee.

    Before the airstrike, Afghan elders had asked Mirwais and his associates to stop attacking the base, ‘but they’re Taliban and they didn’t listen. So the result is that Mirwais lost his family,’ Hashimi said Tuesday.

    ‘We didn’t know who was in that building, but we saw fighters move into that area who were legitimate targets,’ Collins said. ‘The building was struck and as we all know, unfortunately, civilians were killed.’

    Human Rights Watch researcher Sifton said Taliban attacks that harmed civilians and excessive force by NATO troops in response were both inexcusable.

    ‘It’s legal to return fire during a conflict setting. We would never deny that,’ he said. ‘We’re just saying international forces have to take additional precautions. … It’s simply not believable that so many civilians could be killed. You can’t open fire and shoot anything and everything, 360 degrees around you.’

    ___

    Associated Press reporters Rahim Faiez, Amir Shah and Alisa Tang contributed to this report.

    Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.

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  2. Mar 10, 3:43 AM EST

    U.S. Military: Censorship Was Justified

    By MATTHEW PENNINGTON
    Associated Press Writer

    ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — The U.S. military asserted that an American soldier was justified in erasing journalists’ footage of the aftermath of a suicide bombing and shooting in Afghanistan last week, saying publication could have compromised a military investigation and led to false public conclusions.

    The comments came Friday in response to an Associated Press protest that a U.S. soldier had forced two freelance journalists working for the AP to delete photos and video at the scene of violence March 4 in Barikaw, eastern Afghanistan. At least eight Afghans were killed and 34 wounded.

    “Investigative integrity is one circumstance when civil and military authorities will reluctantly exercise the right to control what a journalist is permitted to document,” Col. Victor Petrenko, chief of staff to the top U.S. commander in eastern Afghanistan, said in a letter Friday.

    He added that photographs or video taken by “untrained people” might “capture visual details that are not as they originally were.”

    The AP disputed the assertions.

    “That is not a reasonable justification for erasing images from our cameras,” said AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll in New York. “AP’s journalists in Afghanistan are trained, accredited professionals working at an appropriate distance from the bombing scene. In democratic societies, legitimate journalists are allowed to work without having their equipment seized and their images deleted.”

    Afghan witnesses and gunshot victims said U.S. forces fired on civilians in cars and on foot along at least a six-mile stretch of road from Barikaw following the suicide attack against the Marine convoy. The U.S. military said insurgents also fired on American forces during the attack. One Marine was wounded.

    A U.S. soldier deleted the AP journalists’ footage that showed a civilian four-wheel drive vehicle in which three Afghans were shot to death about 100 yards from the suicide bombing. The journalists had met requests from the military to not move any closer to the bomb site.

    Other Afghan journalists said the military also deleted their footage.

    Petrenko said that if people who are not part of the investigation entered such a “secured area” they could disturb evidence and other clues, “potentially fouling the conclusions of the investigation.”

    Petrenko said that taking pictures could also misrepresent what had happened in the incident.

    “When untrained people take photographs or video, there is a very real risk that the images or videography will capture visual details that are not as they originally were,” he said. “If such visual media are subsequently used as part of the public record to document an event like this, then public conclusions about such a serious event can be falsely made.”

    The AP also raised concerns about the military’s efforts to restrict its coverage of the Feb. 15 crash of a U.S. helicopter in southern Zabul province in which eight soldiers were killed and 14 wounded. Two AP journalists and their vehicle were searched extensively in an effort to prevent footage of the wreckage getting out.

    Petrenko justified that action on the grounds of “operational security” exercised when “equipment, aircraft or component parts are classified.”

    He maintained that the U.S. military had no intention of curbing freedom of the press in Afghanistan.

    “We are completely committed to a free and independent press, and we hope that we can help encourage this tradition in places where new and free governments are taking root,” Petrenko said.

    “It so happens that on these two recent occasions, military operational or security requirements were compelling interests that overrode the otherwise protected rights of the press.”

    © 2007 The Associated Press.

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  3. 4/11/2007, 1:21 p.m. EDT
    By ROBERT BURNS
    The Associated Press

    WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. military commander has determined that Marines accused of killing civilians after a suicide bombing in Afghanistan last month used excessive force, and he has referred the case for possible criminal inquiry, The Associated Press has learned.

    The initial investigation of the March 4 incident, in which up to a dozen Afghan civilians are reported to have died, concluded that the Marines’ response was “out of proportion to the threat that was immediately there,” a senior defense official said Wednesday.

    The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the probe’s results have not been released. The findings have been forwarded to Central Command, which has responsibility for U.S. military operations in the Middle East and Central Asia.

    The case has also been referred to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service for a broader criminal inquiry, the official said.

    Another official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said the initial military investigation concluded that there was a “reasonable suspicion” that the Marines violated the rules for the use of deadly force, and that crimes, possibly including homicide, may have been committed in the aftermath of the convoy being struck by a car bomb.

    The Naval investigative service got the case within the past week but has not yet begun interviewing the Marines, this official said. This official said the number of Marines involved in the case is “in the 20s.” They were in six military vehicles that were traveling in a convoy at the time of the incident.

    In the March 4 incident in Nangahar province, an explosives-rigged minivan crashed into a convoy of Marines that U.S. officials said also came under fire from gunmen. Reports of the number of dead and wounded varied. Injured Afghans said the Americans fired on civilian cars and pedestrians as they sped away.

    U.S. military officials said militant gunmen shot at Marines and may have caused some of the civilian casualties.

    The Afghan government has done its own investigation and the results are pending. President Hamid Karzai condemned the incident, which was one among several involving U.S. forces in which civilians were killed and injured.

    Army Maj. Gen. Francis H. Kearney III, head of Special Operations Command Central, began his investigation after taking the highly unusual step of ordering the unit of about 120 Marines out of Afghanistan.

    The Marines are in a special operations unit that deployed from Camp LeJeune, N.C., in January with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit. After Kearney ordered them out of Afghanistan they returned to the ships of the 26th in the Persian Gulf.

    Their unit is one of four Marine Special Operations Command companies that have been established since the command was created in February 2006. The one ordered out of Afghanistan was the first to deploy abroad.

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  4. Pingback: More expensive gas for Afghans, to please foreign capitalists | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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