From The Frontier Post in Pakistan:
Monday, May 25, 2009
KABUL (Agencies): NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has reportedly admitted that a civilian was killed in its air strike on Wednesday in eastern Afghanistan. In a statement released on Sunday, ISAF said that they targeted the man in Paktia province, mistaking him for setting up improvised explosive devices. It was found in an investigation that he was not a militant, ISAF said. Afghan National Army soldiers took the victim to a hospital in Kabul, where he died later, the statement added. ISAF has assured not to cause civilian deaths in future.
We will, I fear, learn soon how little those NATO assurances about civilians’ lives are worth. Well, at least, we will, IF the big media will not have forgotten this NATO promise of now by then …
From Wired in the USA:
Another coalition airstrike in Afghanistan has gone awry; eight civilians are believed to be dead, the U.S. military announced Wednesday [20 May 2009].
See also here. And here. And here. And here.
Killing of Afghan civilians covered-up by Australian military: here.
Rumsfeld’s renegade unit blamed for Afghan deaths: here.
Provincial authorities in south-western Afghanistan have thrown thousands of books, mainly about Shias or Shia Islam, into a river: here.
Afghanistan’s parliament call for the prosecution of “Criminal Foreign Troops”: here.
There are large-scale civilian deaths in Afghanistan that make headlines, and then there are the small incidents that are barely noticed at all. That was the fate of 12-year-old Benafsha Shaheem.
On May 3, she was traveling with family members from her village in western Farah province to a wedding party in the neighboring province of Herat. Packed into a white Toyota Corolla wagon, they neared the outskirts of the city of Herat when, according to a report compiled by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, the vehicle was fired on by an Italian patrol convoy. Benafsha was seated in the middle of the backseat wearing a red dress, her relatives say. She was shot in the face and died instantly. Her mother was wounded in the chest.
AFGHANISTAN: Risking one’s health for a pittance
Hundreds of child coal miners are facing health risks
BAMYAN, 26 May 2009 (IRIN) – Hundreds of child labourers in informal and/or illegal coal mines in Bamyan and Sar-e-Pol provinces, in central and northern Afghanistan respectively, have respiratory and eye infections and are exposed to other dangers, according to health officials in both provinces.
“We work 200-300 metres under the surface… It’s hot down there but cold outside, so I always feel ill,” Mohammad Alim, a 15-year-old coal miner in the Kahmerd District of Bamyan, told IRIN.
“I lost my younger brother when a shaft collapsed last year,” said Reza, a 13-year-old worker, adding that he had continued to work in the mine because there was no other way he could support his family.
“I have been working here for the past three years and I always get chest pains,” said Yadgar, 16, who works in a coal mine in Balkhab District, Sar-e-Pol Province.
Most child labourers said they were working in the mines to help their families but only got 150-300 Afghanis (US$3-6) a day.
Coal mining in Afghanistan is a largely unregulated affair. Production is about 200,000 metric tonnes a year, but only about 20 percent is from government mines, mainly operated by the North Coal Department or associated agencies in Herat Province, according to a report abstract published by the Geological Society of America in October 2006, and entitled Coal Mining in Afghanistan – A Third-World Paradigm of Problems and Opportunities.
Domestic demand for coal remains high, however, and this explains the large number of illegal and/or informal, small, artisanal mines which use primitive methods and where health and safety, or environmental concerns, are barely a consideration, the report says.
Regular inhalation of coal dust can cause serious respiratory and lung diseases, such as asthma-causing anthracosis. Harmful bacteria and dirt in coal dust can also damage the eyes, health experts say.
“Various harmful particles can damage the lungs and the entire respiratory system of a person who frequently inhales dust and coal powder,” Hamid (like many Afghans he does not use a surname), a doctor at Bamyan’s central hospital, told IRIN.
Work inside dusty and dark coal mines also frequently results in head injuries and eye infections because workers in informal mines rarely use protective goggles or helmets, and have defective – or no – decent protective equipment.
“We do not keep medical records of children working in the coal mines but the overall number of people seeking treatment for lung and eye infections is high,” said Hamid.
Child coal miners also face other risks – mine collapses, fires, lack of oxygen, coal gas, and back or ligament injuries caused by lifting heavy objects – workers and local officials said.
Abdul Khaliq Zaleeq, governor of Kahmerd District, told IRIN over 1,500 workers – most of them under 18 – worked in local coal mines. Dozens, if not hundreds, of children are also involved in coal mining in Sar-e-Pol Province, local officials said. However, owing to the informal and in many cases illegal nature of their work, IRIN was not able to establish how many of the children regularly worked underground.
“Coal mining operations in Bamyan, Sar-e-Pol and other provinces are illegal and conducted by unauthorised people,” Mohammad Ibrahim Adil, the minister of mines and industries, told IRIN, adding: “We want to bring coal mining under government control and ensure all safety measures for workers.” He did not say when this might happen.
Khozhmal Olomi, a spokesman for the Ministry of Mines and Industries, told IRIN in Kabul about 1,500 workers were involved in illegal mining in Kahmerd District, producing up to 500 metric tonnes of coal per day. However, some 1,088 people were employed in five coal mines in central and northern provinces which are supervised and maintained by the government. Workers in these mines have access to some preventive/protective equipment such as goggles and helmets, he said.
Dozens of Afghans protest civilian deaths in clashes
REUTERS , HERAT, AFGHANISTAN
Wednesday, Jun 03, 2009, Page 5
Dozens of people in northwestern Afghanistan protested on Monday against civilian deaths in fighting between government forces and insurgents, while roadside bombs killed four troops from the NATO-led force.
Residents of northwestern Badghis Province’s Bala Murghab district said six civilians, including women and children, were killed during a firefight between Afghan and Taliban forces but local authorities blamed elders for helping a Taliban ambush.
“The government arrest and beat shopkeepers for selling groceries to the Taliban, but we are victimised by both sides,” Haji Mohammad Shah said.
3 June 2009
WASHINGTON (AFP) – A US military probe has found US staff made significant mistakes in carrying out deadly air strikes in Afghanistan last month that killed dozens of civilians, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
“American personnel made significant errors in carrying out some of the airstrikes in western Afghanistan on May 4 that killed dozens of Afghan civilians,” the report said, citing an unnamed senior US military official.
Civilian casualties — often from US air power — have caused mounting outrage in Afghanistan and friction with the Kabul government, with US and Western officials worried about handing propaganda victories to the Taliban.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai demanded a halt in air strikes after the May 4 incident at Bala Buluk, one of the deadliest such incidents of the war in which his government says 140 civilians died.
A US military investigation admitted that 20-30 civilians were killed along with 60-65 insurgents. Afghanistan’s top rights body said 97 civilians, most of them children, were believed to have died.
“The (US military) official said the civilian death toll would probably have been reduced if American air crews and forces on the ground had followed strict rules devised to prevent civilian casualties,” the Times report said.
“Had the rules been followed, at least some of the strikes by American warplanes against half a dozen targets over seven hours would have been aborted,” it added.
“The report represents the clearest American acknowledgement of fault in connection with the attacks,” the Times said.
“It will give new ammunition to critics, including many Afghans, who complain that American forces too often act indiscriminately in calling in airstrikes, jeopardizing the United States mission by turning the civilian population against American forces and their ally, the Afghan government.”
The general chosen to lead US and NATO forces in Afghanistan warned in US Congress hours earlier that the war against insurgents could be lost unless civilian casualties were reduced.
Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal, nominated to take over as commander in Afghanistan, said that civilian deaths from coalition operations risked alienating the Afghan people and undermining the entire war effort.
The US military in Kabul said it could not comment on the investigation being carried out by US Central Command as it had not yet seen the report.
Video taken from a B-1 bomber, however, had clearly shown there were Taliban fighters in the targeted buildings, a spokeswoman said.
“We were called in to support Afghan forces on the ground under fire,” Lieutenant Commander Christine Sidenstricker told AFP.
“We came in on a rescue mission. Commanders on the ground made the decision they felt was best,” she said, adding “a lot consideration was given to where civilians may have been.”
The Taliban militia on Wednesday released findings of what it called its own investigation into the incident, listing the names and ages of 142 civilians out of 166 it claims were killed.
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