IssueDecember 2008 - January 2009
News by Gabriel Carlyle

At least 40 civilians were killed in an airstrike on a wedding party in Shah Wali Kot in Kandahar province in Afghanistan on 3 November. 40 is the official Afghan government estimate; local residents reported that 90 people had been killed or wounded.

“I counted 90 dead bodies,” said Abdul Rahim, 26, who said he was a survivor of the family that hosted the wedding party. “I saw them with my own eyes,” he said in a telephone interview from Kandahar Province.

Rahim told journalists he had lost 15 members of his family, including two brothers, 8 and 10 years old; several women; and other children. He said Taliban insurgents had fired some shots from the top of a hill toward a convoy of American vehicles, and the US forces had returned fire. About an hour later, an airstrike destroyed four houses, including the house where the wedding party was under way.

A tribal elder of Shah Wali Kot, who spoke to the New York Times on the condition of anonymity, said he could not confirm the exact death toll, but the casualties were higher than the Afghan government’s estimate of 40.

The US account was that: “Civilians reportedly attempted to leave the area, but the insurgents forced them to remain as they continued to fire”, thus trapping them in a firefight.

A further seven civilians (and 15 “Taliban fighters”) were killed in subsequent attacks on three villages in northwestern Afghanistan.

Qari Dawlat Khan, the provincial council leader in the area, said as many as 20 civilians might have been killed. One council member, Tawakal Khan, said he had lost two sons, 12 and 35 years old, and a grandson, 7.

100 dead in Pakistan

Earlier, on 29 October, suspected US missiles struck two villages in Pakistan, close to the Afghan border, killing 27. Two missiles hit a house and a car in Mir Ali in North Waziristan, and two more hit a village in South Waziristan.

The attacks took place two days after Pakistan summoned the US Ambassador to protest against missile strikes and demand that they be stopped immediately.

On 27 October, the New York Times reported that: “The White House has backed away from using American commandos for further ground raids… relying instead on an intensifying campaign of airstrikes.”

On 7 November, at least 12 people were killed when two missiles hit the village of Kam Sam in North Waziristan. The Washington Post reported: “More than 100 people have been killed since August in 18 US airstrikes in Pakistan’s restive tribal frontier lands.”

What would be the reaction if “more than 100 Georgians” had been killed since August by 18 Russian airstrikes – or if “more than 100 Britons had been killed since August by 18 al-Qa’eda suicide bombers”?

Topics: Afghanistan