Killing civilians outrages Afghans, damages int'l troops popularity 2008-08-25 21:18:21   Print

    By Abdul Haleem

    KABUL, Aug. 25 (Xinhua) -- Killing of more than 80 civilians by international troops in western Afghan province Herat in a single day on Aug. 22 has drawn nationwide condemnations and demand for trial of those responsible for the bloody incident.

    The U.S.-led Coalition forces in a joint operation with Afghan army carried out air raids against the suspected hideout of Taliban militants in Azizabad village of Shindand district leaving89 civilians including women and children dead on Friday.

    This is the biggest-ever casualties inflicted to non-combatants by international troops since their deployment after the fall of Taliban regime in late 2001.

    Both Afghan and U.S. military disputed the claim in the beginning, saying no or just five civilians were killed in the strike.

    Afghan defense ministry spokesman Zahir Azimi said that the raid left 25 militants and five civilians dead while the U.S. military put the number of militants' casualties 30, denying any damage to civilians in the operation.

    Nevertheless, media outlets citing villagers put the number of casualties as high as 91, while Afghan interior ministry in a statement issued later on Friday confirmed the death of 76 civilians including 19 women in the bombardments.

    The U.S. military later on promised to look into the matter after surging reports of huge civilian casualties in the air strike surfaced.

    The gruesome incident prompted hundreds of Afghans in the affected area to take to the streets, chanting anti-America slogans.

    In efforts to calm down the residents' anger, Afghan troops sent humanitarian aid including wheat to the affected area but the locals rejected it by throwing stones on the soldiers, according to local media.

    In a bid to express sympathy with the bereaved families, President Hamid Karzai besides strongly condemning murdering civilians had dismissed two senior army officers in west Afghanistan for "negligence and concealing facts", a statement issued by his office said Saturday.

    "The unilateral and imprecise operation which included both ground and air strikes in Azizabad district caused a tragic incident claiming 89 civilian lives including women and children," the statement added.

    Karzai also constituted a commission comprising of government functionaries and parliamentarians to investigate the shocking issue whose members have confirmed the huge number of civilian deaths.

    Both the NATO-led peacekeeping International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the U.S.-led Coalition forces have committed such "mistakes" during operations since their deployment here nearly seven years ago and claimed many civilian lives. Despite persisting demands by the people and officials of Afghanistan, still such bloody incidents are repeated and the war-weary people are still suffering.

    There have been no reports on how those responsible for the so-called erroneous killing of Afghan civilians have been published.

    According to Afghan media, two U.S. soldiers had been tried by U.S. authorities for shooting down over a dozen civilians after they came under militants attack on a road outside Nangarhar's provincial capital Jalalabad in east Afghanistan in March 2007.

    Karzai has more than once called on the currently 70,000-stronginternational troops based in Afghanistan to coordinate their operations with Afghan authorities in order to avoid harming civilians.

    The repeated killing of civilians have prompted some lawmakers to call for legalization of the presence of international troops in the post-Taliban nation, with some saying the long-term stay of foreign troops have facilitate Taliban's campaign for support from local residents in attacking "foreign occupiers."

    A member of parliament from Herat province while criticizing such mischief in Shindand told Afghan Wolesi Jirga or Lower House of parliament on Saturday that "Afghans will not need the presence of foreign troops and democracy if they continue to kill innocent civilians."

    Afghan Wolesi Jirga in a move on Saturday decided to constitute a commission and talk with President Karzai on how to avoid harming civilians and end the crisis.


Editor: Bi Mingxin
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