Thursday, February 15, 2007

Afghan general: punish Canadian Soldier

Afghan general says Canadian who shot convoy driver should be punished
Feb 15, 2007

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CP) -
A Canadian soldier who opened fire on an Afghan National Army convoy wounding a military driver should face some kind of discipline in his own country, a senior Afghan commander said Thursday.

Lt.-Gen. Rahmatullah Raoufi said he understood the mistakes that led up to the incident, which has increased strain between the allies since it happened east of Kandahar on Monday.

The 23-year-old Afghan officer driving the lead vehicle missed the warning sign demanding that he stop, the general said. The Afghan vehicle was peppered with a blast of 7.62-millimetre machine-gun fire from the turret of a Canadian RG-31 Nyala vehicle.

"The incident was a mistake," Raoufi, the commander of all Afghan forces in the south, said in an interview with The Canadian Press through a translator.

"(But) the Canadian who shot our man must be punished according to Canadian army law."

The Canadians have apologized three times, he said.

There was some confusion about the wounds the man received. The adjutant at the Afghan army hospital where the soldier was first treated said Monday the victim was hit in the arm and leg and suffered a series of cuts from flying glass. But the Canadian army, who gave him further treatment at the Kandahar Airfield hospital, described the injuries on Tuesday as less serious, saying doctors only operated on a leg wound.

The injured officer, Lt. Abdul Hadi, was reported in stable condition Thursday and seemed well enough to be taken outside for some late morning sun.

Raoufi said he was pleased and grateful for the medical treatment Hadi was receiving at the NATO base.

A series of unintentional civilian shootings over the last year has increased tension between Canadian troops and the Afghan population, who have taken to complaining openly about the violence.

Just after sunrise Monday, a convoy of Afghan army pickup trucks - the primary means of transportation for this emerging military force - approached a security cordon around a disabled Canadian Nyala.

The line of vehicles was waved through an initial checkpoint by a Canadian light armoured vehicle crew but came under fire when it approached the inner defensive perimeter.

Raoufi said Hadi, who as an officer was not a regular driver, mistook some hand signals as he tried to pass around the cordon.

A spokesman for the Canadian Forces would not comment on where the investigation stands.

"We're in the middle of an ongoing investigation and hopefully that investigation will bring to light what happened," said Lt. (Navy) John Nethercott.

"At this point, I'm not allowed to talk about anything to do with the investigation. There is a process that has to be followed."

Nethercott did confirm the Canadian soldier involved in the shooting remains on duty and was new to the theatre and convoy duty. At the moment, soldiers from the 1st Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment are being replaced with fresh troops from Atlantic Canada.

Meanwhile, a village shura - or meeting - in neighbouring Helmand province, involving NATO and Afghan army forces and village elders in Haji Amin Kalay, was hit with extremist mortar fire. One woman was killed and her child suffered shrapnel wounds.

The village is located west of the town of Garmsir.

NATO and Afghan troops immediately started to evacuate the village and returned fire, said an alliance statement.

The child and his father were evacuated to the nearest NATO medical facility for treatment. The child's condition was not immediately known.

"Once again, this demonstrates the complete disregard the enemy has for lives of local people," said Lt.-Col. Rory Bruce, a spokesman for Task Force Helmand.