NATO, civilians give 2 accounts of fatal operation

NATO carried out a search operation in Kandahar.

Updated: Jun 28, 2010, 15:26 PM IST

Kandahar: NATO said on Monday that a Taliban commander was among several armed individuals killed during a search operation in Kandahar, but residents claim the troops killed eight innocent civilians, including two elderly men.

NATO said in a statement that coalition and Afghan troops went to a compound outside Kandahar city where they immediately came under hostile fire. The troops returned fire in self-defence and killed several armed men, including Taliban commander, Shyster Uhstad Khan, who was involved in the purchase and distribution of roadside bombs, NATO said. The coalition said the combined force also detained an individual who was suspected of having direct contact with senior Taliban leaders in Kabul and facilitated the delivery of explosive devices to the capital.

Residents describe the search operation differently in Kandahar, where Afghan and coalition forces are ramping up security in hopes of driving out insurgents, gaining the loyalty of residents and bolstering the Afghan government`s control of the Taliban stronghold.

Mohmodullah, a relative of some of the victims, said at the scene that eight civilians were killed when troops searched two homes around 2 am near Bagh-e-Pul.

"The NATO force climbed over our wall and shot two of my brothers and my father," said Mohmodullah, who uses one name. "They did the search operation and they didn`t find anything in our home so who gave them the authority to do it? If they were Taliban, they need to show us proof. Otherwise, they should be punished for it."

Mohammad Shah Farooqi, head of the investigation unit of the Kandahar police, agreed, saying, "We have no records on these people so it seems to me that they are locals or innocent people." But he said he was still working on a final investigative report to send to his superiors.

In eastern Ghazni province on Monday, a minivan exploded when it struck a roadside bomb in Andar district. At least three people were killed in the blast, but the death toll could be higher, according hospital officials and survivors who said there were 10 passengers in the van.

Mohammad Ismail Ibrahimzai, chief at the main hospital of Ghazni city, said three bodies had been recovered and two people were being treated. Andar district administrator Sher Khan Yasoufzai said it would be difficult to determine exactly how many people were killed because the scene of the powerful explosion was littered with body parts.

June has become the deadliest month of the war for NATO troops with at least 99 killed, 56 of them American. For US troops, the deadliest month was October 2009, with a toll of 59 dead.

Bureau Report