US bombs kill Afghan children, women

This Associated Press video is called U.S. troops blamed for Afghan civilian deaths.

From British daily The Guardian:

‘I was still holding my grandson’s hand – the rest was gone’

In the second of our series of dispatches from the ravaged country, Afghans explain how mounting civilian casualties are aiding Taliban recruiting

* Clancy Chassay

* Tuesday 16 December 2008

It was 7.30 on a hot July morning when the plane came swooping low over the remote ravine. Below, a bridal party was making its way to the groom’s village in an area called Kamala, in the eastern province of Nangarhar, to prepare for the celebrations later that day.

The first bomb hit a large group of children who had run on ahead of the main procession. It killed most of them instantly.

A few minutes later, the plane returned and dropped another bomb, right in the centre of the group. This time the victims were almost all women. Somehow the bride and two girls survived but as they scrambled down the hillside, desperately trying to get away from the plane, a third bomb caught them. Hajj Khan was one of four elderly men escorting the bride’s party that day.

“We were walking, I was holding my grandson’s hand, then there was a loud noise and everything went white. When I opened my eyes, everybody was screaming. I was lying metres from where I had been, I was still holding my grandson’s hand but the rest of him was gone. I looked around and saw pieces of bodies everywhere. I couldn’t make out which part was which.”

Relatives from the groom’s village said it was impossible to identify the remains. They buried the 47 victims in 28 graves.

Stories like this are relatively common in today’s Afghanistan. More than 600 civilians have died in Nato and US air strikes this year. The number of innocents killed this way has almost doubled from last year, and tripled from the year before that. These attacks are weakening support for the Afghan government and turning more and more people against the foreign occupation of the country.

“If things were going OK maybe we could accept the occasional mistake. But with the economy the way it is, the worsening security situation, and the lack of development – when they kill civilians on top of everything else, it’s too much for people,” says Jahid Mohseni who runs Tolo TV, Afghanistan’s most popular television station, with his two brothers.

The US military initially denied any civilians had been killed in the Kamala bombing but later said they were investigating the incident. When asked this week for an explanation of events on that morning in July, the US military in Afghanistan said they were unfamiliar with the specifics but would look into it.

The latest figures from the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, taken a month ago, suggest about 750 civilians have been killed by foreign forces this year. Most were killed in air strikes. The remainder were shot by jumpy soldiers, who often open fire in crowded public places after an attack on one of their convoys.

Humanitarian aid agencies say privately that they believe the figure is significantly higher, as many victims classed as “insurgents” are actually non-combatants. …

Civilian casualties are not new to Nangarhar province – last year a convoy of US Marines hit by a bomb attack subsequently opened fire in a bazaar killing 16 people. The marines involved were sent home and their officers charged, but a subsequent ruling cleared them of responsibility for the deaths. …

The accidental targeting of wedding parties in Afghanistan has only deepened resentment. Last month 27 people were killed when a wedding party was bombed near Kandahar. It was the third wedding party to be hit this year alone. …

Sharif Hassanyar, a former interpreter with US Special Forces who is now working as a journalist, described how decisions were taken to bomb areas based on flimsy intelligence.

“I remember when I was working with a group of Rangers and a spy in the area told them the Taliban were training in a garden of a house so they bombed the house, without checking the information. Afterwards they found out that there had not been any Taliban there, only civilians were killed by the bombs,” he said.

Informants for the foreign forces often give bad information either accidentally or because they are pursuing tribal or personal vendettas against individuals in neighbouring villages, he added.

“The Taliban grow very strong in the aftermath of each attack,” said Hassanyar. …

It is not just the deaths from air strikes that are poisoning the hearts of Afghans. In the capital, Kabul, each day, terrified drivers swerve out of the way as foreign troops hurtle through the streets in their armoured convoys training their rifles on the drivers and pedestrians and shouting obscenities: “Stay the fuck back!

The Afghans know to keep out of the way. Last year a US military convoy ploughed into several vehicles, killing seven people including a family. The incident sparked a riot involving thousands of angry Kabul residents. It was suppressed only after the security forces started shooting protesters on the streets. At least 15 people were killed.

“The anti-American feelings in Afghanistan are not just coming from conservative or religious elements,” said Shukria Barakzai, a female MP.

“These feelings stem from the actions and military operations of the foreign troops. The anti-western sentiment is directly because of the military actions, the civilian casualties, and the lack of respect by foreign troops for Afghan culture.”

As the coalition I’m working with — Get Afghanistan Right — continues to make the case that the Obama administration would be wise to rethink its plan to escalate militarily in Afghanistan, I’ve tried to engage the arguments made by some feminists and human rights groups who believe that such an escalation is necessary to protect Afghani women and girls: here.

8 thoughts on “US bombs kill Afghan children, women

  1. AFGHANISTAN: ‘Charmak’ disease still killing people, livestock in west

    Photo: Khaled Nahiz/IRIN
    ‘Charmak’ disease infected over 270 people from November 2007 to December 2008, killing at least 44 people and thousands of livestock

    HERAT, 16 December 2008 (IRIN) – Over 270 people have been diagnosed with a hepatic veno-occlusive disease (VOD), locally known as “camel belly” or `charmak’ disease, in the western province of Herat – and at least 44 deaths have been confirmed – since November 2007, provincial health officials told IRIN.

    The disease – which causes rapidly filling ascites (an accumulation of fluid in the peritoneal cavity), severe abdominal pain, vomiting and jaundice – killed a 15-year-old boy on 8 December, according to local health workers.

    “VOD of the liver is a form of toxic liver damage caused by pyrrolizidine alkaloids,” the UN World Health Organization (WHO) has said.

    Laboratory tests at the National Institute for Public Health in the Netherlands in May confirmed the disease is caused by exposure to pyrrolizidine alkaloids found in `charmak’, a poisonous weed believed to be growing mostly alongside cereals in Gulran District of Herat Province, and which often finds its way into locally produced wheat flour.

    `Charmak’ disease was first reported in Gulran District in November 2007, and the Health Ministry said “no new outbreak” had occurred since May 2008, largely owing to increased public awareness.

    “Diagnosed cases have increased because patients who were infected five or six months ago are seeking treatment,” said Abdullah Fahim, a spokesman for the Health Ministry.

    But Aziz Noorzai, head of Gulran’s 25-bed hospital, told IRIN at least eight people had been recently infected. “We diagnosed 22 new cases… of which eight were infected… within the last month.”

    Despite the prevalence of the disease for a long time, there is still no effective medication available in Afghanistan to treat patients, health officials in Kabul and Herat said.

    Animal husbandry affected

    Animal husbandry and agriculture are the two main sources of income for people in Gulran District. Local people, however, say they now need emergency food aid because `charmak’ has badly affected their grain harvest and livestock.

    The outbreak of `charmak’ disease and awareness messages by health workers have prompted local residents to stop consuming locally produced wheat flour, fearing it could be contaminated by the poisonous weed.

    Livestock deaths have reportedly increased in the past several weeks causing fear among herders: The fatally toxic `charmak’ weed is suspected to have killed 1,000 sheep, cows and goats over the past month. Thousands of livestock have perished since November 2007.

    The head of Gulran District, Golam Farooq Majroh, warned that people would “abandon everything and move to other areas” if animal deaths were not curbed through the urgent provision of safe fodder.




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