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AFGHANISTAN: Daily stuff here please....

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bigron
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« on: July 27, 2010, 09:39:52 am »

US forces hit target 'with no civilian deaths' but Afghans tell different tale

Special forces ensured 'no innocent Afghans in area', but villagers say up to 300 civilians died in attack

by David Leigh

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jul/26/afghanistan-war-logs-helmand-bombing

July 26, 2010

On 2 August 2007, a US special forces team mounted what they hoped would be an assassination spectacular in the Baghni valley, in the mountains of northern Helmand. They called it Operation Jang Baz.

Special operations troops, the war logs report, "tracked and fixed 2 senior Taliban commanders" to the remote spot. The files reveal their names were Mullah Ikhlas, and his deputy, known as Qalandari. Both were listed as "High Value Individuals tier 2", putting them near the top of the US "kill or capture" list. Ikhlas was believed to run the entire Taliban fighting machine in southern Afghanistan.

The special forces command claimed that Ikhlas was "conducting a major Shura" a conference of top Taliban. After dropping six 2,000lb GBU-31 guided bombs on the meeting from a B1 jet, the coalition reported "effectively destroying the primary target location" and killing 50 "Taliban senior commanders, security and fighters". Lt Gen John Mulholland, of the special operations command, later claimed "over 150 Taliban fighters" had been killed.

It was later realised that despite "multiple forms of positive identification" Ikhlas had in fact probably never been there at all. The US was to claim to have killed him again in another air strike on 2 December 2007, and subsequently arrested a Mullah Ikhlas many months later, on 7 May 2008, in Garmsir, further south in Helmand.

A statement released from Bagram air base on the day of Operation Jang Baz said the bombs had been dropped "after ensuring there were no innocent Afghans in the surrounding area".

Within 24 hours, however, villagers were telling a very different story from the one presented in the war logs. Locals told Reuters that up to 300 civilians as well as a number of Taliban were killed in the air strike after they had been rounded up to watch a Taliban-organised public hanging of two suspected spies. No mention of such a "Taliban court" appears in the official war logs , where it might have flagged up the prospect of civilian deaths.

The local police chief was reported as claiming more than 20 wounded civilians were sent to a hospital in Lashkar Gar and others transferred to hospitals in Kandahar. A doctor at the Lashkar Gar hospital was quoted as saying he was treating at least 18 civilians, including an eight-year-old.

According to reports, the Taliban denied there were hangings taking place, or insurgents present, claiming that the air strikes killed only civilians gathering at a local shrine for a religious ceremony.

But the coalition dismissed claims of civilian deaths. "It is interesting there were no females," said Lieutenant-Colonel Charlie Mayo, a British spokesman. "We are very confident we hit a large meeting of Taliban, and they are very sore about it."



 
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