British press buries death squad killings

IssueFebruary 2010
News by Gabriel Carlyle

A recent alleged massacre by US-led forces in Afghanistan has been greeted with near-total silence on the part of the British press.

On 31 December, The Times’ Jerome Starkey reported allegations that ten civilians – including seven children – had been killed during a night-raid on the village of Ghazi Kang. According to the local headmaster – who provided Starkey with their names and school registration numbers – the children, whose ages ranged from 11 to 17, were handcuffed before being shot. “I saw their school books covered in blood,” a local elder told The Times.

The alleged atrocity forms part of a broader pattern of murders by US Special Forces in Afghanistan that has been repeatedly criticised by the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings.

Three mentions

Typically, the US military denied the claims. Just as typically, the rest of the British media (other than The Times) all but ignored them.

Indeed, according to Media Lens (, only three press reports in major UK newspapers even mentioned it: 28 words in the Guardian, 45 in the Sunday Telegraph, and 78 in the Mirror (in a piece headlining the killing of eight US civilians elsewhere in the country).

Given such coverage, how many know that the US is running death-squads in Afghanistan?

Topics: Media, Afghanistan