Afghan Leader Appeals to Obama to Stop US Bombing of Civilians: New US Air Raid Kills Afghan Civilians

November 6th, 2008 - by admin

Noor Khan & Jason Straziuso / The Star & Associated Press & Kuwait News Agency – 2008-11-06 21:56:49

Karzai Urges Obama to Stop Civilian Deaths
Noor Khan & Jason Straziuso / The Star & Associated Press

WECH BAGHTU, Afghanistan (November 5, 2008) — The Afghan president congratulated Barack Obama and called on him today to halt civilian casualties as villagers said US warplanes bombed a wedding party, killing 37 people — most of them children.

President Hamid Karzai said airstrikes cannot win the fight against terrorism.

“Our demand is that there will be no civilian casualties in Afghanistan. We cannot win the fight against terrorism with airstrikes,” Karzai said. “This is my first demand of the new president of the United States – to put an end to civilian casualties.”

Karzai spoke about the deaths at a news conference held to congratulate Obama on his election victory.

Obama has talked about the issue of civilian deaths in the past. In remarks in August that drew criticism from Republicans, he said: “We’ve got to get the job done there and that requires us to have enough troops so that we’re not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous problems there.”

The US military said it was investigating the deaths from bombing of remote Wech Baghtu in the southern province of Kandahar. A villager said American forces had given them permission to bury the dead, which he said included 23 children and 10 women.

A US spokesperson, Cmdr. Jeff Bender, added that “if innocent people were killed in this operation, we apologize and express our condolences.”

Abdul Jalil, a 37-year-old grape farmer whose niece was getting married, told an Associated Press reporter at the scene of the bombing that US troops and Taliban fighters had been fighting about a half mile from his home.

Fighter aircraft destroyed his compound and killed 37 people, Jalil said. Karzai’s office said the attack killed about 40 people and wounded 28. The bodies were buried before the AP reporter arrived, and he could not verify the death toll.

Mohammad Nabi Khan, who witnessed the bombing, told AP at the main hospital in Kandahar city that two of his sons, ages 4 and 11, and his wife’s brother were among the dead.

“What kind of security are the foreign troops providing in Afghanistan?” he asked.

Wedding parties in Afghanistan are segregated by gender, explaining why so many women and children could have died.

In a statement from his office, Karzai condemned the civilian deaths and urged military forces to avoid Afghan villages and instead concentrate on the “sources” of terrorism, a clear reference to Pakistan.

Civilian casualties, which undermine popular support for the Afghan government and the international mission, have long been a point of friction between Karzai and the US or NATO.

According to an AP count of civilian deaths this year, US or NATO forces have killed at least 275 civilians, while 590 have died from militant-caused violence like suicide bombs.

The airstrikes in Kandahar come three months after the Afghan government found that a US operation killed some 90 civilians in the a western village. After initially denying any civilians had died there, a US report concluded that 33 civilians were killed.

Following that operation, Karzai said relations between Afghanistan and the United States were seriously damaged.

Jalil said American forces came into his village late Monday night or Tuesday morning – after the bombing run – and searched the villagers and detained some men. Jalil said he told the Americans that they could search his vineyards and his home but that they wouldn’t find any militants.

Elsewhere in Kabul, Gen. David Petraeus, the new chief of US Central Command, met with Afghan Defence Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak and assured officials that Obama’s victory will not change US commitment to Afghanistan, an Afghan official said.

“Until Afghanistan can stand on its own feet the United States will help,” Defence Ministry spokesperson Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi quoted Petraeus as saying.

Many observers expect the US military to change its focus from Iraq to Afghanistan under an Obama administration.

Karzai said he hopes the election will “bring peace to Afghanistan, life to Afghanistan and prosperity to the Afghan people and the rest of the world.” He applauded America for its “courage” in electing Obama.

Karzai Asks US Leadership to
Stop Bombing Afghan Villages

Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)

KABUL (November 5, 2008) — Several civilians are reported to have been killed in an air raid by NATO aircraft in southern Afghanistan as Afghan President Hamid Karzai demanded of the United States to “stop bombing the Afghan villages”.

In a press conference on Wednesday afternoon at his Presidential Palace, the Afghan leader welcomed the victory of Barack Obama in the US elections, but said bombing should be stopped on his country’s civilian population. Karzai said the war on terror should be fought in Afghanistan but the foreign troops should focus targeting the roots of terrorism.

Karzai said his country was the victim of terrorism and the foreign troops should target areas from where terrorism emanates.

In his first message to the new US leadership, Karzai said civilian casualties must be stopped and that the roots of terrorism should be attacked. It is understood that the Afghan president is referring to the tribal areas of Pakistan when he mentions the word “roots of terrorism.”

As Karzai was uttering those words, Afghans in south of the country claimed that dozens of men, women and children, were killed in bombing by NATO jets in the province of Kandahar. The casualties occured from jet bombing at a marriage party in a remote village in the southern province.

Coalition forces said they were investigating the incident, which civilians say, occurred in a remote village of Shah Walikot district of Kandahar province on Monday evening. Afghan officials in the province of Kandahar said the casualty toll in the bombing was nearly 90. Several others had suffered injuries, they added. A coalition statement said they were investigating, but apologise for the killing of civilians, if any.

“We apologise to the families and the people of Afghanistan if innocent civilians were killed in the operation,” said the statement. At least 47 civilians, mostly women and children, were killed in a similar attack on a wedding party in eastern Afghanistan some three months. Another such incident occurred when the NATO troops bombed the village of Aziz Abad in the western Herat province of the country.

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Fresh US Air Raid Kills Afghan Civilians — Officials
Sharafuddin Sharafyar / Reuters

HERAT, Afghanistan (November 6, 2008) — US-led troops have killed at least seven civilians in an air strike in northwestern Afghanistan, officials said on Thursday, a day after the president said warplanes had killed 40 civilians in the south.

President Hamid Karzai said the issue of civilian casualties was the biggest source of tension with his main backers, the United States, and called on President-elect Barack Obama to make it his top priority to stop the killings of innocents.

The air strike was called in after a joint convoy of Afghan and US forces came under an attack by Taliban insurgents in Ghormach district of Badghis province in the northwest late on Wednesday, provincial officials said.

District chief Abdullah said seven civilians and 15 insurgents were killed in the raid, but the head of the provincial council Qari Dawlat, quoting villagers, put civilian deaths at around 30.

A spokesman for the US military said he was not aware of the report and would check the incident.

It was not possible to independently verify the claims due to the remoteness of and poor security in the area.

The Ghormach district, an ethnic Pashtun pocket in the mainly Tajik and Uzbek north, has seen a steady rise in violence in the last two years, holding up work on completion of a road linking the west to the capital, Kabul, and hampering aid deliveries.

Hundreds of Afghans have been killed in US air strikes this year, leading to seething resentment against the presence of foreign troops and a rift between Karzai and his Western backers.

Some 4,000 people, more than a third of them civilians, have been killed this year in fighting with the Taliban, who have expanded the scope and scale of their insurgency to try to oust Karzai’s Western-backed government and eject foreign forces.

NATO and US-led coalition troops in Afghanistan say they do their utmost to avoid civilian casualties, but mistakes do happen. Hundreds of civilians are killed in Taliban attacks, especially by suicide and roadside bombs.

In a latest suicide attack near a government office, five people, three of them civilians, were wounded on Thursday in Maidan Wardak province, an official said. (Writing by Sayed Salahuddin; Editing by Valerie Lee)

© Thomson Reuters 2008 All rights reserved

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.