U.S. Says Raids Killed Taliban; Afghans Say Civilians Died

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
New York Times
May 1, 2007
Pg. 8
By Abdul Waheed Wafa
KABUL, Afghanistan, April 30 — United States Special Forces said they killed more than 130 Taliban in two recent days of heavy fighting in a valley in western Afghanistan, but hundreds of angry villagers protested in nearby Shindand on Monday, saying dozens of civilians had been killed when the Americans called in airstrikes.
The protesters sacked and burned government buildings, said Noor Khan Nekzad, a spokesman for the provincial police. He said none of the demonstrators were injured, but news reports said a number of protesters were hurt as the police and the army moved in to subdue the crowd.
The American military said that the fighting against the Taliban occurred Friday and Sunday in the Zerkoh Valley, near the Iranian border about 30 miles south of the city of Herat, and that the Special Forces called in airstrikes on at least two occasions. An American soldier was killed in the fighting on Friday, the military said, but there were no other reported casualties on the coalition side.
Forty-nine Taliban fighters, including two leaders of the group, were killed in the first bombardment on Friday, and 87 militants were killed in bombing during a second battle on Sunday that raged for 14 hours, the military said in a statement from the United States-led coalition headquarters at the Bagram air base.
But the local residents said that civilians were killed in the bombardment and that some drowned in the river as they fled, according to a local member of Parliament, Maulavi Gul Ahmad. News agencies reported that demonstrators said women and children were among the dead.
Mr. Ahmad condemned the bombing and said that the fighting angered local residents because the Americans raided their houses at night.
“They should not do that,” he said in a telephone interview. “The number that they claim — that 130 Taliban were killed — is totally wrong. There are no Taliban there.”
Raiding houses touches a nerve in Afghanistan, especially in conservative tribal areas, because the local custom dictates that men who are not family members cannot enter the parts of homes where the women stay. Such raids were upsetting local sensibilities so much several years ago that the American forces made an agreement with the Afghan government that they would not raid houses without the presence of Afghan elders or the police. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission says that the agreement is still in effect, but that American troops do not always adhere to it.
But an Afghan military official, who asked not to be identified, presented a different version of events from that of Mr. Ahmad. He said that the Special Forces had run into trouble on Friday, when they were surrounded by insurgents, and that they requested support from the Afghan National Army.
Afghan Army and police officials denied any involvement in the fighting.
The province of Herat, where the fighting occurred, is usually quiet, but the Zerkoh Valley is populated by ethnic Pashtuns and shares a border with provinces where there are many insurgents.