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
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
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.