Sunday, April 16, 2017

Afghan and coalition forces kill at nine civilians as they destroy arms cache

Afghan officials said that they were investigating claims that at least nine civilians including six children had been killed during an operation by Afghan and coalition forces that blew up a Taliban weapons depot in southern Helmand Provice.

A spokesperson for the governor of Helmand, Omar Zwak, said that troops on a joint military operation just outside the capital Lashkar Gah, found the munitions cache late Saturday: “They set up explosives to detonate the cache, and it damaged the house where the civilians were staying.” Captain Bill Salvin a spokesperson for the Afghan coalition said that the coalition had seen the reports of civilian casualties and would continue an inquiry into the allegations. General Dawiat Wazirr, a spokesperson for the Afghan Defense Ministry said that investigators had been sent to Helmand to investigate the claims. The concrete building next door had been a clinic until the Taliban moved in.
Haji Sadiq, who owned the house that collapsed said it was being occupied by a family that had been looking after his farm after he had moved to the capital Lashkar Gar to escape the fighting. Sadiq said: “Last night, Afghan forces, along with foreign forces, raided the clinic around 11:30 p.m., and arrested some 40 to 50 villagers, and took them to the desert, and only left women and children in the houses. They put explosives over the clinic and detonated it, and the mud house next to the clinic collapsed.”
Saidq said he rushed to the scene next morning, but at first the police would not let any civilians near the collapsed house. When they finally were allowed in, he said they pulled nine bodies from the wreckage, including two older adults, their daughter-in-law and six grandchildren. One child was unaccounted for. One son had gone to Herat province to work and so escaped the carnage. The deaths of civilians in the ongoing civil war at the hands of Afghan and coalition forces as well as the Taliban has always been a problem.
In February, local residents US bombings in the Sangin district killed at least 22 civilians. The NATO mission in Afghanistan has claimed that it is investigating the deaths. The Taliban now hold seven of 14 districts in Helmand province which is Afghan's largest province in area. Of the other seven, five are contested, with the Afghan government fully in control of only two areas and the provincial capital.
At first, Afghan officials claimed their own commandos detonated the weapons cache. Later this report was revised to claim that members of the U.S.-led coalition detonated the weapons but the nationality of those responsible was not disclosed. Often official reports are unreliable and official investigations often come up with accounts of what happened that contradict that of locals and eyewitnesses. The detonation of the explosives without ensuring that nearby civilians were evacuated is surely inexcusable.
At present, there are 8,400 US troops in Afghanistan along with 5,000 from other NATO countries. The U.S. general in charge of operations has requested that 5,000 more troops be sent to help defeat the Taliban. The U.S. has said it will defeat the Islamic State in Afghanistan in 2017 which is operating there as well as the Taliban. The combat mission of the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan ended in January of 2015 but there is no sign of an end to the civil war and under Trump it appears that the U.S. involvement may increase as it has in Yemen and Somalia. as well as Iraq and Syria.

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