Wednesday, August 27, 2008

60 children among Afghan Dead UN finds.

This is from the NY Times.
NATO and the U.S. insist they always show the utmost concern for civilian casualties. Yet they do not even count them. In this case as in others they insist on giving a quite different account of what happens inevitably downplaying any civilian deaths if they even admit any. Karzai has for his part been complaining about this for ages without any results. The U.S. is getting a bit peeved at his complaints however and for this and other reasons will try to arrange his replacement by a more amenable president such as Zalmay Khalilzad who has served the Bush administration well. Of course this arrangement will be democratic!
This example shows what probably happens reasonably often. Money is paid for intelligence and any Afghan who has a beef against another tribe can make some money and get even by fingering them as Taliban and indicating where they are.

August 27, 2008
60 Children Among Afghan Dead, U.N. Finds
KABUL, Afghanistan — A United Nations human rights team has found “convincing evidence” that some 90 civilians — among them 60 children — were killed in air strikes on a village in western Afghanistan on Thursday night, a statement issued by the United Nations mission in Kabul said, making it almost certainly the deadliest case of civilian casualties caused by any United States military operation in Afghanistan since 2001.
The United Nations the team visited the scene and interviewed survivors and local officials and elders, getting a name, age and gender of each person reported killed. The team reported that 15 people had been injured in the air strikes, which occurred in the middle of the night.
The numbers closely match those given by a government commission sent from Kabul to investigate the bombing, which put the total dead at up to 95.
Mohammad Iqbal Safi, the head of the parliamentary defense committee and a member of the government commission, said the 60 children were between three months old and 16 years old, all killed as they slept. “It was a heart breaking scene,” he said.
The death toll may even rise higher since heavy lifting gear is needed to uncover all the remains, said one Western official who had seen the United Nations report.
“This is a matter of grave concern to the United Nations,” Kai Eide, the United Nations special representative for Afghanistan said in a statement. “It is vital that the International and Afghan military forces thoroughly review the conduct of this operation in order to prevent a repeat of this tragic incident,” he said.
The United Nations report adds pressure to the United States military, which has to date said only that 25 militants and five civilians were killed in the air strikes, which were aimed at a Taliban named Mullah Saddiq. The military announced it was conducting an investigation after the high civilian death toll was reported.
The bombing occurred around midnight, the United Nations statement said. “Foreign and Afghan military personnel entered the village of Nawabad in the Azizabad area of Shindand district,” it said. “Military operations lasted several hours during which air strikes were called in.” “The destruction from aerial bombardment was clearly evident, with some 7-8 houses having been totally destroyed and serious damage to many others,” it said.
The parliamentarian, Mr. Safi, said the villagers were preparing for a ceremony the next morning in memory of a man who had died some time before. Extended families from two tribes were visiting the village and there were lights of fires as the adults were cooking food for the ceremony, he said.
How the military came to call in air strikes on a civilian gathering still remains unclear. Two parliamentarians, Mr. Safi and Maulavi Gul Ahmad, who is from the area, said the villagers blamed tribal enemies for giving the military false intelligence.
“According to the villagers their enemies give false report to Americans that foreign fighters were gathering in the village,” Mr. Safi said.
Mr. Ahmad directly blamed the United States Special Forces, who are training the Afghan National Army and were present in the joint operation. “I can’t blame the Afghan National Army for the incident as they had no authority for leading the operation,” Mr. Ahmad said.
The government commission met with the commander of the United States forces in Herat province but he declined to answer their questions, saying the United States military was conducting its own investigation, government officials said.
Russia, at odds with the United States and much of the West over its recognition of two breakaway regions in the Central Asian country of Georgia, said it would raise the issue on Tuesday afternoon at the Security Council.
Abdul Waheed Wafa contributed reporting.

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