07 May

Afghans Protest over Farah Deaths


Villagers Show Missiles Remants

Investigators have arrived in Bala Baluk to establish how many people died in the incident [EPA]


Afghans have staged an angry protest following the suspected deaths of up to 100 civilians in a US-led air raid in western Farah province.

Shots were fired on Thursday as the demonstrators threw stones at government offices in the town of Farah, the provincial capital.

Several people were wounded in the melee, Gul Ahmad Ayubi, ahealth department official, said.

The protest came as a team of US and Afghan government investigators arrived in the Bala Baluk district to gather more information about Monday’s incident.

If the casualties are confirmed, it would be the largest loss of civilian life in a single attack since US troops invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

Haji Nangyalai, one of the protesters, said the demonstration had been called to “show our anger at the crimes committed by the American forces”.

“They have killed our innocent people carelessly, that is why we are protesting.”

Another demonstrator, who gave his name only as Abdullah, told the AFP news agency: “People are really angry and they shout ‘death to America, death to the invaders.

“They are hurling stones at government buildings and there is some gun fire in the air – at this stage we don’t know by who.”

Mohammad Younus Rasouli, the deputy provincial governor, said the protest had been “violent”.

“Police tried to disperse them but they started throwing stones at police, who fired into the air.”

Civilian casualties

Police and the provincial governor have said they have received information that suggests more than 100 people could have been killed when US-led forces launched the raids on two villages.

Abdul Rauf Ahmadi, the police spokesman for western Afghanistan, told AFP that up to 30 of the dead were suspected Taliban and the remainder were civilians including children, women and elderly people.

Rohul Amin, the governor of Farah province, said Taliban fighters were reportedly using civilian homes to shelter from US-led forces during an operation targeting fighters.

The US and Nato forces commander in Afghanistan said it was unclear whether the deaths resulted from US military action.

General David McKiernan said US forces launched air raids as they came to the aid of Afghan police who may have been ambushed by the Taliban.

He said the Taliban beheaded three civilians, possibly to lure in the police.

“We have some other information that leads us to distinctly different conclusions about the cause of the civilian casualties,” McKiernan said.

Conflicting accounts

Al Jazeera’s Nick Clark, reporting from Kabul, said there were a number of conflicting accounts of what had occurred.

“The provincial governor told us that no one consulted him about the air strikes,” he said.
“It’s also been reported that the Taliban themselves killed villagers… There is one account of how they herded together three families and put them in a room and chucked a grenade in there.”

He said there were accusations that Taliban fighters had been using the local villagers as human shields.

“Hopefully this delegation that is in Farah province will give us some kind of clue, some kind of answer to what has transpired,” Clark said.

“They’ll almost be taking a census of the survivors in the village, they’ll be taking eyewitness testimonies … and also they’ll be undertaking the grisly task of examining bomb craters to establish if there are any human remains.”

The US government has come under increasing criticism during the past year for civilian deaths during operations against Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan.

Barack Obama, the US president, on Wednesday expressed regret for civilian deaths in Afghanistan, vowing to “make every effort” to avoid them in the future.

Washington has heightened its focus on fighting the Taliban since the Obama administration assumed power this year, with an added 21,000 troops due to be sent to Afghanistan.

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