Fri, May 16, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Burqa bomber kills 18 in Afghanistan

UN CRITICISM A UN special rapporteur yesterday condemned the lack of interest in the hundreds of civilians being killed by international troops, police and Taliban

AGENCIES , HEART AND KABUL, AFGHANISTAN

A suicide bomber detonated a blast in a bazaar in western Afghanistan yesterday, killing 18 police and civilians, in the bloodiest suicide attack in weeks, officials said.

Twenty-two people were injured in the blast, which took place near a police station in Del Aram district of Farah Province. The policemen were inspecting vehicles on the road outside at the time.

“So far, 18 people, including police and civilians, have been killed,” Farah Governor Rohul Amin said by phone.

Citing officials near the site, Amin said the bomber was wearing the all-enveloping burqa robe that Afghan women commonly wear.

A Taliban spokesman, Qari Mohammad Yousuf, said the attack was carried out by a member of the group — whom he identified as a man named Khalid.

Two police vehicles were destroyed in the attack.

Six of those killed were police, including a senior officer, another provincial official said, adding the rest of the dead were civilians.

Farah Deputy Governor Mohammad Younus Rasouli said the body of the bomber was destroyed.

“But we have found pieces of women’s dress, shoes and a burqa,” he said.

The interior ministry in Kabul gave a lower death toll, saying seven civilians and five policemen were killed.

Juma Khan, an official in the provincial police department, said women and children were also probably killed in the blast.

COMPLACENCY

Meanwhile, a UN rapporteur yesterday criticized what he called the “staggeringly high” complacency in Afghanistan about the hundreds of civilians being killed by international troops, Afghan police and extremist rebels.

International forces had killed about 200 civilians in operations in the past four months, while Taliban and other rebels had killed around 300, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions Philip Alston said at a press conference in Kabul.

Police were also involved in unlawful killings, while secret militias apparently controlled by foreign intelligence services operate with impunity, he said.

“Afghanistan is enveloped in an armed conflict. But that does not mean that large numbers of avoidable killings of civilians must be tolerated,” said Alston, a professor of law in New York who is independent of the UN.

“The level of complacency in response to these killings is staggeringly high,” he said.

Most of the 200 civilians reported killed by international troops, often working with Afghan forces, died in air strikes, Alston said, adding that he had seen no evidence of foreign soldiers violating the law or human rights.

However, the forces were “surprisingly opaque” about accounting for the incidents.

They had said figures for civilian casualties caused by troops were “either not available in Afghanistan ... or that they are secret and cannot be provided to me,” Alston said.

He was also told the outcomes of investigations into individual soldiers suspected of unlawful killings were not tracked in Afghanistan so it was never known if anyone was held accountable.

Alston added it was “absolutely unacceptable” for foreign intelligence units to be “conducting dangerous raids that too often result in killings without anyone taking responsibility for them.”

These units were outside of the government and Afghan structures and not much was known about them, he said.

The Taliban and other insurgent groups were estimated to have killed about 300 civilians in the past four months, roughly three-quarters in suicide attacks, he said.

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