Monday, March 05, 2007

Afghan, U.S. reports on firefight differ

This is a follow-up to an earlier post about civilians' being killed in Afghanistan by coalition forces.
An explosives-rigged minivan crashed into a convoy of Marines that U.S. officials said also came under fire from militant gunmen Sunday. As many as 10 people were killed and 34 wounded as the convoy made a frenzied escape, and injured Afghans said the Americans fired on civilian cars and pedestrians as they sped away.

U.S. officials said militant gunfire may have killed or injured civilians, but Afghanistan's Interior Ministry and wounded Afghans said most of the bullets were American. Hundreds of angry Afghans protested near the blast site, denouncing the U.S. presence here.

As the Americans fled, they treated every car and person along the busy, tree-lined highway as a potential attacker, said Mohammad Khan Katawazi, the district chief of Shinwar in eastern Afghanistan's Nangarhar province.

"I saw them turning and firing in this direction, then turning and firing in that direction," Ahmed Najib, a 23-year-old hit by a bullet in his right shoulder, said of the U.S. forces. "I even saw a farmer shot by the Americans."

Lt. Col. David Accetta, the top U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, said gunmen may have fired on U.S. forces at multiple points during the escape. He said it was not yet clear how the casualties happened, though he left open the possibility that U.S. forces had shot civilians.

"It's not entirely clear right now if the people killed or wounded by gunfire were killed or wounded by coalition forces gunfire or enemy attackers gunfire," he said.

The accusation that U.S. forces killed or wounded so many Afghans was likely to cause an uproar in a country that has seen an untold number of civilians killed by international forces since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. A high-level delegation was appointed to investigate.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has pleaded repeatedly for Western troops to take care not to harm civilians, and in December wept during a speech lamenting civilian deaths at the hands of foreign forces.

"...they treated every car and person...as a potential attacker..."

No shit! What is it about self preservation people don't understand? Of course everyone would be seen as a potential attacker. That's the nature of this conflict. At any time, obviously, an attack could come from anywhere.

(read more)

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