Afghan officials claim:
147 civilians killed in US air-strike
An injured child lies in a hospital in Farah, in the western
Farah state . -AFP
Villagers pray at a mass grave of victims of air strikes in the
village of Garni in the western Farah state. An Afghan
provincial police chief said that investigations showed over 100
people were killed in a series of US-led coalition air strikes
in western Afghanistan. - AFP
HEART, May 10 - Shouting "Death to America" and "Death to the
Government", thousands of Afghan villagers hurled stones at police
yesterday as they vented their fury at American air strikes that local
officials claim killed 147 civilians.
The riot started when people from three villages struck by US bombers
in the early hours of Tuesday, brought 15 newly-discovered bodies in a
truck to the house of the provincial governor. As the crowd pressed
forward in Farah, police opened fire, wounding four protesters. Traders
in the rest of Farah city, the capital of the province of the same name
where the bombing took place, closed their shops, vowing they would not
reopen them until there is an investigation.
A local official Abdul Basir Khan said that he had collected the
names of 147 people who had died, making it the worst such incident
since the US intervened in Afghanistan started in 2001. A phone call
from the governor of Farah province, Rohul Amin, in which he said that
130 people had died, was played over the loudspeaker in the Afghan
parliament in Kabul, sparking demands for more control over US
The protest in Farah City is the latest sign of a strong Afghan
reaction against US air attacks in which explosions inflict massive
damage on mud-brick houses that provide little protection against bomb
blasts. A claim by American officials, which was repeated by the US
Defence Secretary Robert Gates in Kabul, that the Taliban might have
killed people with grenades because they did not pay an opium tax is not
supported by any eyewitnesses and is disproved by pictures of deep bomb
craters, one of which is filled with water. Mr Gates expressed regret
for the incident but did not go so far as to accept blame.
The US admits that it did conduct an air strike at the time and
place, but it is becoming clear, going by the account of survivors, that
the air raid was not a brief attack by several aircraft acting on
mistaken intelligence, but a sustained bombardment in which three
villages were pounded to pieces.
Farouq Faizy, an Afghan radio reporter who was one of the first to
reach the district of Bala Baluk, says villagers told him that bombs
suddenly, "began to fall at 8 p.m. on Monday and went on until 10 p.m.
though some believe there were still bombs falling later". A prolonged
bombing attack would explain why there are so many dead, but only 14
wounded received at Farah City hospital.
The attack was on three villages - Gerani, Gangabad and Koujaha -
just off the main road. It is a poppy growing area of poor farmers and
there were several fields of poppies near the villages. The Taliban are
traditionally strong here and the police and soldiers waiting around the
villages were said by eyewitnesses to be frightened. This would explain
why Afghan army commanders might have been eager to call for US
airstrikes, though they would have needed the agreement of American
special operations officers.
Provincial officials, including the governor Rohul Amin, say that in
the lead-up to the bombing there was heavy fighting between hundreds of
Taliban and the Afghan Army and police. Going by Mr Faizy's account
there had been, "a fight some seven or eight kilometres from the three
villages in which two Afghan Army and a US Humvee were destroyed. A
third Afghan Army vehicle was captured." Three police were killed and
four wounded, as was one American and one Afghan army soldier. This was
hardly a major military engagement, but the pro-government forces seem
to have got the worst of it and their burned out vehicles still stand in
the road.The loss of life in Afghanistan from air strikes is often worse
than in Iraq where houses are more modern and usually have basements. In
the villages in Farah, people were living in compounds with mud brick
walls which crumbled easily. Pictures of the aftermath of the attack
show people standing beside the remains of a relative which often only
looks like a muddy pile of torn meat. One elderly white bearded man,
said by neighbours to have lost 30 members of his family, squats
despairingly beside a body that has been torn into shreds. Among the few
wounded to stay alive is a child with a badly burned face.
One reason why US bombing inflicts such heavy civilian casualties in
Afghanistan and Iraq is that both are very poor countries in which
houses are very crowded. When the US used air strikes and heavy
artillery with little restraint in the siege of Fallujah in 2004 it
caused serious loss of life. Wedding parties in both countries have
often been mistaken for "terrorist" gatherings and bombed.
In Afghanistan opinion polls show that support for the Taliban and
for armed attacks on foreign forces rises sharply after events like the
bombing in Farah. President Hamid Karzai frequently criticises the US
military for wantonly inflicting civilian casualties, attacks which his
opponents say is an opportunistic effort to burnish his nationalist
The Taliban increasingly use tactics developed by insurgents in Iraq,
notably suicide bombing on a mass scale and IEDs, or mines in the road
detonated by a control wires or electronically. In Helmand province
yesterday a suicide bomber killed 12 civilians in an attack on a foreign
military convoy near the bazaar of the town of Gereshk. No foreign
troops were killed by the explosion, though two were wounded.
Leaders condemn ...
The Chairman to the Communist Party Raja Collure said that SWAT
Valley bombing along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, targeting Taliban
terrorists was against humanitarian law. The world powers, who are
behind these operations have no right to accuse others of violating
humanitarian laws which they violate, he said.We totally condemn
terrorism. Terrorists and the terrorism should be eradicated from the
face of this earth. But by doing so, they had to be mindful of civilian
lives, he said.
Veteran trade unionist and Western Provincial Council Governor Alavi
Mowlana said that he had sent telegrams to U. N. Secretary General Ban
ki-Moon and Ambassadors of United States and United Kingdom based in Sri
Lanka expressing displeasure over the actions of the USA and UK who have
been practising double standard policies on the burning issue of
He said that they will commence non-stop agitation against those
countries from Monday. Thousands of innocent people including children
had been killed and injured by air attacks in the SWAT Valley.
Terrorists and terrorism no doubt must be eradicated. In Sri Lanka a
humanitarian operation to liberate innocent civilian from LTTE
terrorists was being implemented. USA and UK should not try to disturb
the current humanitarian operations in Sri Lanka, he said.
Western Provincial Council Minister Udaya Gammanpila said that the
USA is killing innocent people in the SWAT Valley in Afghan - Pakistan
border to cover up the desperation in their failure to defeat the Al
Queda terror group. They should get "Tuition" from Sri Lanka on how to
destroy a terrorist group without killing innocent people, he said.
Veteran trade unionist Somaweera Chandrasiri said that USA practises
a double standard policy on world affairs. Hundreds of innocent people
have been killed or injured in the SWAT Valley. USA's attempt to
slowdown the humanitarian operations in the Wanni was to assist
terrorist leader Prabhakaran and terrorism, he said.
Kurunegala District UNP MP, Akila Wiraj Kariyawasam said that
terrorism wherever it is, must be eliminated. The innocent civilians
should not be killed in bombing or air attacks.
All countries should respect the UN Charter, he said.