Thu, Dec 31, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Civilians ‘shot dead’ by foreign forces

AFGHAN GOVERNMENT PROBE President Karzai’s office said eight of 10 people killed in a raid on Sunday were students. ISAF said it had no operations in the area at the time


An Afghan government investigation into the deaths of 10 civilians in the country’s east found they were dragged from their homes and shot dead by foreign troops, the president’s office said yesterday.

The dead included eight school students aged between 13 and 17 years old, a statement from President Hamid Karzai’s office said.

International forces based in Kunar Province, where the alleged incident took place, told government investigators “they were unaware of the incident,” the statement said.

“A unit of international forces descended from a plane in the Narang district of Kunar Province and took 10 people from three homes, eight of them school students in grades six, nine and 10, one of them a guest, the rest from the same family, and shot them dead,” the statement said, quoting the head of the investigating team.

The investigation was headed by Asadaullah Wafa, an advisor to Karzai and a former governor of Kunar Province.

Wafa said the villagers demanded from the 10-member delegation of government officials and lawmakers that informants “who gave the wrong target to the Americans must be found and punished by a court.”

The presidential statement said Wafa was shown documents by the head teacher of the school, proving the students’ status.

Karzai had spoken with the father and uncles of the students, offering his condolences and promised a full investigation.

“The president assured them that the government will seriously investigate the incident and deal with the culprits in accordance with the law,” the statement said.

NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said that it had no activities in the area at the time the alleged incident took place.

Colonel Wayne Shanks, spokesman for ISAF, told a news conference yesterday that that allegations were being investigated together with Afghan authorities. He said the force takes all such allegations seriously and goes to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties.

“In fact, you can see that our enemy, the insurgents, have very little regard for the Afghan people,” he said. “We have noticed a very dramatic increase in civilian casualties caused by roadside bombs by attacks that insurgents have on the Afghan people.”

A senior Western military official said that US Special Forces have been conducting operations in the area, along the border with Pakistan, and that they operate separately from ISAF.

Karzai’s office said the incident happened on Saturday, and the delegation was appointed Monday and arrived in the region on Tuesday.

Several hundred Afghans in neighboring Nangarhar Province demonstrated yesterday against the deaths, burning an effigy of US president Barack Obama and shouting “death to Obama.” Hundreds of university students blocked main roads in the provincial capital Jalalabad.

Although far more civilians are killed by the Taliban, those blamed on international forces spark the widespread resentment and undermine the fight against the militants.

Meanwhile, a US soldier has died after being shot when an Afghan soldier opened fire on foreign troops in western Afghanistan on Tuesday, also wounding two Italians, NATO said.

An Italian military spokesman said the incident took place at 11:30am during a supply operation in Bala Murghab in Badghis Province. The Italian soldiers suffered only minor injuries, the spokesman said.

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