Entries in Civilians (5)


NATO Assures Karzai Airstrikes on Civilian-Populated Areas Will End

MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- A NATO airstrike that accidentally killed 18 civilians last week was the last straw for Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

After meeting with Gen. John Allen, the commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, Karzai received assurances over the weekend that the coalition would no longer conduct airstrikes on areas populated by civilians.

A statement from Karzai's office read that Allen "once again officially apologized for civilian casualties in Baraki Barak district" and "promised...not to carry out air strikes on public residential areas."

Even after the NATO commander explained that the airstrikes last week were spurred by coalition forces coming under fire by the Taliban, Karzai insisted, "Attacks by NATO that cause life and property losses to civilians under no circumstances could be justified and are not acceptable."

The loss of civilian lives in the pursuit of the enemy has long been a bone of contention between the Afghan government and the international coalition.  This agreement, if it holds, will prove to be a political victory for Karzai at the cost of making warfare more difficult for the U.S. and NATO.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Anger Over Marine's Light Sentence for 24 Killings

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A light sentence handed down to U.S. Marine Frank Wuterich for his guilty plea in the killings of 24 Iraqi civilians in 2005 has shocked and angered Iraqis, military experts and Internet users.

"It's upsetting," said Basam Radha, an Iraqi-American activist. "These forces are out there trying to liberate us, spending billions of dollars of taxpayers' money to liberate us, and these people are doing exactly the opposite thing."

Wuterich, 31, the leader of a squad in the Iraq war, has admitted to giving an order that resulted in the deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians, including women and children, in Haditha, Iraq. The incident occurred after a roadside bomb went off, killing a fellow Marine, and Wuterich ordered his soldiers "to shoot first, ask questions later" as they searched nearby houses.

Wuterich pleaded guilty Monday to dereliction, a charge reduced from the voluntary and involuntary manslaughter charges he originally faced. At a sentencing Tuesday, he received a demotion, but was not sentenced to any jail time for the killings.

While in court, Wuterich apologized to the victims' families and tried to explain how the massacre occurred.

"When my Marines and I cleared those houses that day, I responded to what I perceived as a threat. And my intention was to eliminate that threat in order to keep the rest of my Marines alive," Wuterich said. "So when I told my team to 'shoot first and ask questions later,' the intent wasn't that they would shoot civilians, it was that they would not hesitate in the face of the enemy."

Wuterich was the last of eight Marines charged in the incident to be sentenced. Six had the charges against them dropped, and one was acquitted.

The lack of punishment for the Marines involved was troubling for people who saw the result as unjust.

Said Ron Meister, a former Navy JAG officer and military judge who is now the chairman of the National Institute for Military Justice, "If you contrast individuals who the U.S. has incarcerated under very harsh conditions in places like Guantanamo for close to a decade for just training with terrorist groups but not actually committing murders, and look at where they end up and conditions they serve them, and contrast them with a U.S. soldier who was responsible for the killing of over 20 people, it's hard to be pleased with the comparison."

Internet users seemed to agree, taking to Twitter to call Wuterich a "cold-blooded baby killer," and classify the sentence as "government terrorism."

Twitter user Taji Mustafa wrote, "Marine who led 2005 #Haditha massacre of 24 unarmd Iraqis spared jail by US court #Wuterich. If an Iraqi killd Americns?"

Others bemoaned the perceived injustice that Wuterich essentially "got off free" while a soldier like Bradley Manning, who is charged with leaking sensitive U.S. documents to WikiLeaks, is facing life in prison.

"Bradley Manning should've really considered committing some war crimes instead of exposing them, worked well for Frank Wuterich. #Iraq," tweeted MazMHussein.

But some legal analysts and Iraqi-Americans disagreed, saying they supported the sentence in light of the circumstances surrounding the murders.

"I don't think he should be punished," said Peter Abdul Ahad, a leader of the Iraqi American Association, based in Pomona, Calif. "This is war. Of course, this happens between military people and non-military people. He should defend himself, should have the liberty to defend himself."

Added Victor Hansen, a former lieutenant colonel and Army JAG officer who is now a professor of law at New England Law in Boston, "How can somebody walk away from an incident where 24 people are dead and not face more serious criminal consequences? In the context of a combat environment, when things are fast and confusing, can the government establish that the orders he gave resulted in an unjustified killing? It's hard to say. It's factually very difficult to prove."

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Civilians Killed By Roadside Bomb in Afghanistan

ABC News(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- At least 13 civilians were killed in Afghanistan Saturday morning, after a roadside bomb detonated.

Officials from the Afghan Interior Ministry say the deadly attack occurred around 7:30 a.m. local time in the Zanjer area of Zabul province. The explosive device was reportedly planted at the roadside and detonated killing the occupants of a van.

Authorities say among those killed were seven men, four women, and two children.

This was the latest bombing incident in which civilians were killed. On Thursday 13 people died after a civilian bus was hit by a roadside bomb. More than 12 other people were also injured in that incident.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Afghanistan Officials: ISAF Airstrike Results in Civilian Deaths

ABC News(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- An investigation has been launched into allegations that an airstrike by coalition forces on Saturday killed over a dozen people in Afghanistan.

According to a statement from the Helmand Governor’s Office, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) launched an airstrike in the Nawzad district of the Helmand province, in which two civilian houses were hit. The statement went on to say that a total of 14 civilians were killed by the airstrike, among them 12 children and two women. Six other civilians were also said to have been injured by the strike.

Helmand officials say the airstrike occurred after insurgents had attacked ISAF troops.

The governor’s office said it "condemns this deep sorrow incident" and is requesting that ISAF forces stop airstrikes that result civilian casualties.

The ISAF did not immediately confirm the civilian deaths.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Northern Insecurity Challenges Claims that US Surge Has Improved Most Afghans' Lives

A U.S. Soldier delivers school supplies to Afghan children. Photo courtesy - U.S. Department of Defense(KUNDUZ, Afghanistan) -- When Afghan police recently arrived in Qaray-e-Araba, near the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border, they found a town that had been entirely lost to insurgents. A sign placed above a house declared it "Al Qaeda Headquarters."

Residents hurriedly handed over dozens of detonators because before the Afghan, Arab, Chechan and Uzbek militants had fled, they rigged every house with homemade mines, hoping the residents would blow themselves up in order to kill U.S. troops and police, who were taking control of the area for the first time in months.

"Militants warned the locals that the Americans would be taking their wives and children away from them, and told them they needed to kill themselves in order to kill the Americans," Kunduz Deputy Police Chief Abdul Rahman Aqtash told ABC News recently. "Luckily, they didn't listen."

The anecdote helps explain how the U.S. troops who arrived there earlier this year as part of the surge have improved the area in and around Kunduz City, according to police chiefs, residents, and Western military officials.

In a crescent from the northwest province of Faryab to the northeast province of Badakhshan, Afghans' perceptions of their lives have turned negative in the last year, a dramatic difference from the positive changes among Afghans living in Helmand, where the U.S. surge started a year and a half ago.

Afghans' perception of their overall living conditions is the same in Helmand and the North, thanks to a 27 percentage point increase in Helmand and an 8 percentage point decrease in the north, according to a new poll conducted by ABC News, the German television channel ARD, the BBC, and the Washington Post.

In the north, the perception of freedom of movement is down six percentage points; security from the Taliban is down 10 percentage points; and economic opportunity is down 17 percentage points. (It is up 45 percentage points in Helmand.) The numbers are even worse in the northwest corner of the country.

In perhaps the most damaging statistic in Kunduz, 53 percent of residents say their children's lives will be better than theirs. That number is down 18 percentage points from last year.

But Jan Mohammad, a farmer outside of Kunduz City, described a life even worse than the poll numbers suggest. Fewer than two years ago, he says, he raised his four children quietly and without concern. But today, he said the best he can do is hide from violent anti-Taliban militias and from the insurgents, who coerce and threaten residents.

At the same time, NATO admits the violence is up, and that there are not enough U.S. resources to guarantee Afghans' security, especially in the rural districts outside of Kunduz City and Mazar-e-Sharif, the largest cities in the north.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio