Tuesday, February 27, 2007

newly arrived CND soldiers do most of the civilian shooting!

Canadians kill Afghan civilian; police want to accompany military convoys

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CP) -
Frustrated by a spate of civilian shootings, Afghan National Police and the head of the local human rights commission have recommended to Canadian commanders that military convoys be shepherded by local authorities.

The issue was brought sharply into focus again Tuesday when a civilian driver was gunned down as he approached a broken-down Canadian armoured vehicle. It was the fourth time this month that an Afghan bystander has been shot dead by Canadian troops.

The shootings have put a strain on relations between Canadian soldiers and civilians, who are often caught in the crossfire or hit by wayward warning shots.

"I ask you: why are civilians being shot?" said Abdul

"It would be better to let Afghan army or Afghan police handle security on convoys. If they were to let the chief of police know when they are moving between places it would be great."

Kandahar Police Chief Asmatullah Alizai made the proposal in a meeting with Canadian military officers last Friday.

"It is an offer we are giving serious consideration to at this time," Canadian army spokesman Maj. Dale MacEachern said Tuesday when asked about the proposal.

The proposal would require the Canadians to share convoy times and routes with Afghan authorities - something that makes the military nervous because of security concerns.

MacEachern said "operational security is definitely something we're going to be looking at" as the offer from the Afghan National Police is evaluated.

The latest incident happened early Tuesday when an Afghan man driving a white Toyota - the kind favoured by suicide bombers - was shot and killed by soldiers who formed a security cordon around the broken-down armoured vehicle.

MacEachern said the driver failed to heed repeated warnings to stop and stay away.

The car apparently drove past one checkpoint manned by Afghan National Police. "The driver then reportedly accelerated towards Canadian vehicles, which prompted the soldiers to fire on the vehicle, causing it to swerve into the ditch," MacEachern told reporters at Kandahar Airfield.

Army medics attempted to treat the victim but he died a short time later.

No explosives were found in the vehicle.

Co-ordination among foreign troops, Afghan forces and civilians is not very good, Noorzai said in an interview Tuesday with The Canadian Press. He suggests this is one of reasons why there have been so many shootings.

While careful not to directly criticize Canadian troops who face the daily threat of suicide bombers, Noorzai expressed frustration over the deadly shooting of civilians. "Why can't they be shot in the leg?" he asked.

The Canadian army's rules of engagement allow for what's called escalation of force. Troops shout warnings, fire warning shots into the ground or in the air, and only when a person fails to heed the warnings are they allowed to take aim.

Earlier this month, an Afghan police officer and a homeless man were shot near the governor's palace after a Canadian convoy had come under fire. Days earlier, a man described by the army as deranged was shot in the village of Senjray on the outskirts of the city.

Two other non-fatal shootings, one of them involving an Afghan army officer, have happened since the beginning of the year.

Most of the shootings involved freshly arrived soldiers. All of the incidents are under investigation by Canadian military police and, in some cases, local authorities.

In 2006, there were five civilian shooting incidents, two of which resulted in deaths, according to figures provided last month by the army. Separately, last August, one Afghan police officer was killed and five others hurt when they sped toward a Canadian artillery position in an unmarked vehicle.

In a separate, unrelated incident Tuesday, a militant with explosives strapped to his chest blew himself up near along a crowded street, injuring three bystanders.

No Canadian troops were in the area.

Elsewhere on Monday, NATO troops fighting in Garmsir, Helmand province, mistakenly killed two civilians and wounded four others. The soldiers inadvertently dropped mortar rounds on the location.

Lt.-Col. Rory Bruce, a NATO spokesman, said the alliance is deeply saddened by the news of the death of innocent civilians.

The incident happened as troops engaged a Taliban position.