Revolution #91, June 10, 2007

Civilian Deaths in Afghanistan:

The Brutal Terror of the U.S. Occupation

May 28, 2006, Helmand province in southern Afghanistan: A convoy of U.S. and NATO soldiers and Afghani police were hit by roadside bombs and came under fire. The official report from U.S./NATO occupation forces says what happened then was a ten-hour battle in which air strikes killed "an estimated two dozen enemy fighters" but that "no Afghan civilian injuries were reported."

But local villagers say this is a lie, that in fact many civilians were killed and injured.

Abdul Qudus, a villager from Helmand's Gereshk district, told The Associated Press: "They came and bombarded the houses of innocent people. Three houses were destroyed. Seven people--including women and children--were killed, and between 10 and 15 were wounded. Villagers are still searching for five missing people." Another villager said the air strikes struck dropped bombs 10 miles away from where the convoy came under fire.

Since the beginning of March, there are reports of hundreds of Afghan civilians being killed by U.S. and NATO forces in at least six separate incidents. The actual number of civilians killed could be much higher since many deaths go unreported.

This widespread killing of civilians says a lot about the nature of the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan.

Massacre on the Road to Jalalabad: On March 4, 2007 a convoy of U.S. Marine Corps Special Forces vehicles traveling on the road from Torkham to Jalalabad in Nangahar province was attacked by a car bomb. The driver of the attacking vehicle was killed instantly and at least one Marine suffered shrapnel injuries.

In retaliation, the Marine convoy unleashed a wave of destruction, killing at least 12 civilians and injuring many more along a 10-mile stretch of road. An investigative report on the incident by Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) documented the incident, saying: “According to the reports of numerous witnesses and the Nangahar police several vehicles, including taxis, minibuses and a Coaster bus, as well as a number of pedestrians and bystanders, came under attack by the American convoy in at least six different locations… Several of the vehicles fired upon were stationary when they came under attack and the reports uniformly indicate that the targets were exclusively civilian in nature and that no kind of provocative or threatening behavior on their part preceded the attacks.”

Seven journalists complained that U.S. Marines and Afghan forces (working with the U.S.) confiscated their cameras and tape recorders and deleted any images. U.S. Marines expressly threatened journalists. One cameraman reported he was told to “delete the photographs or we will delete you” (AIHRC interview, 6 March 2007). Another journalist said a soldier told him through a translator that “if any of this incident is released or shown on any media then the reporter will face the consequences” (AIHRC interview, 5 March 2007).

Aerial bombardment in Jabar Village: On the same day as the attack in Jabaladad, NATO initiated air and artillery attacks against a residential compound in Jabar village in the Nijrab district of Kapisa province. According to residents interviewed by AIHRC, the attack was directed against one local man suspected of Taliban links. The bombing resulted in the death of nine civilian members of the family of the suspect. Those killed included a 90-year-old grandfather and 75-year-old grandmother as well as three women (two of them pregnant) and four children under five years old.

In a second attack later that day more bombs were dropped on an adjacent building, injuring five more people. According to AIHRC it is not clear whether the suspect who was targeted in the attack was really engaged in insurgent activities or whether he was even present in Jabar village on the day of the attack. In any case, AIHRC sums up that “It is clear though that even if the accusations against him were accurate he was of very limited importance and the military advantage of his possible elimination cannot justify the collateral killing of nine innocent civilians. The attack was thus carried out with excessive force and constitutes a violation of international humanitarian law.”

Anger in heart: On April 27 and 29, U.S. troops bombed villages in the province of Herat in Western Afghanistan. The United States military says it came under heavy fire from insurgents as it searched for a local tribal commander and weapons. But villagers, speaking to the New York Times, denied that any Taliban were in the area. These villagers said they had decided to fight the Americans themselves after the soldiers repeatedly raided houses in the village, arrested and tortured village leaders and shot one man dead.

The U.S. began raiding homes in the village in late April. Villagers told the Times that the American forces searched the tribal chief’s house and arrested two of his staff. One of those arrested, a watchman named Bahadullah said he had been handcuffed, covered with a hood and taken to the nearby American base at Shindand. He said he was strung up by his feet as American soldiers swung him about. When he was let down the soldiers kicked and beat him.

On the night of April 27, the first U.S. airstrikes were carried out. The Americans returned on April 29 for another round of bombing.

Husi, 35, was alone with her 10 children when the shooting started. Suddenly a plane bombed her five-room house. She said women and children were pouring out of the village to the river to cross it to safety. In the panic as they fled, Husi was separated from three of her children--Amina, 8, Tote, 5, and Fazli, 3--who are still missing. Two uncles and two cousins were killed when the house was bombed. She said, “We have nothing, it’s all finished.”

Fifty-seven people died during the two nights of aerial bombardment, including 17 children under ten10, ten women and 14 old men. Eight people are still missing. One hundred houses were destroyed and 1,600 people were left homeless.

Massacre at Sarwan Qala: On Tuesday May 8, U.S. airstrikes hit the village of Sarwan Qala. Afghan officials and the U.S. put the number killed at 21. However local residents who visited the village and helped bury the dead said three houses were destroyed and at least 56 civilians were killed.

The United States military claims it called in the airstrikes on Taliban insurgents. Villagers say this is a lie and on the day after the bombing, in order to expose the massacre, they brought the bodies of 21 people, mostly women and children, to the Sangin district center to show them to government officials.

Hajji Mahmud, a shopkeeper who lives near Sarwan Qala, said he was one of those who brought the bodies and said most of them were women and children. “Three houses were completely destroyed,” he said in a telephone interview with the New York Times. “One of the houses belonged to Faizullah. The family of seven is dead, the whole family. Still now they are digging out bodies from the rubble.”

NATO Fires on Civilians in Kandahar: On Tuesday May 15, NATO soldiers driving through Kandahar in Southern Afghanistan shot and wounded five civilians, local residents and police officials.

Residents said three people had been shot in the center of town and two more in the area near the hospital, a mile away, as a NATO military convoy moved through the town.

Qudrat Shah, a 15-year-old student, was shot through the thigh. “My brother and I were walking home and I.S.A.F. shot me in the thigh,” he told the NY Times from his hospital room, referring to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force. “The I.S.A.F. convoy was passing through, and I was walking on foot with my brother. I was not on the road, I was far from the road.” He said he also saw three other people who were shot, including a 10-year-old boy who was shot in the arm.


Unable to rely on the support of the people, the U.S./NATO forces must rely on terror and airstrikes. During the one-week period from March 3-9 there were a total of 330 airstrikes by occupation troops--an average of 47 per day. (The Secret Air Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Z Magazine June 1, 2007)

The U.S./NATO war and occupation has nothing to do with ‘liberating’ the people. They threw out the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban, who were widely hated in the country, and put in their place feudal warlords and other reactionaries and criminals. And the pro-U.S. Puppet regime has done nothing to change the horrific living conditions faced by the people. Kandahar, the second largest city only has enough electricity for 6 hours of power every 2 days. In the country as a whole, 39 percent of the children under five are malnourished. 61% of the population relies on untreated drinking water. 16 percent of babies don’t reach their first birthday. The average life expectancy is 43 years. (Times of London, 11/11/2006)

The atrocities committed by the U.S./NATO forces--and largely covered up and hidden from the public--are not isolated incidents, or the actions of rogue troops. They are the actions of a brutal occupying army that relies on terror in order to defend and expand the interests of U.S. Imperialism.

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