by UNA MOORE
What follows is a cautionary tale, in time-line form, about the perils of investigating, reporting on, and responding to civilian casualty incidents in armed conflict.
Dec. 26: An incident took place in a small village in Kunar province, northeastern Afghanistan, and Afghans were reportedly killed.
Dec. 27: Local authorities claimed an air strike by foreign forces had killed nine or 10 civilians. The International Security Assistance Force, NATO’s command in Afghanistan, said the incident did not involve an air strike and the Afghans killed in the operation were insurgents who had been planting Improvised Explosive Devices.
Dec. 28: Kunar Governor Fazullah Wahidi disputed the ISAF claim, telling telling Reuters elders from the village said 10 civilians had been killed, including eight schoolboys.
Kunar Police Chief Khalilulah Ziaye, meanwhile, said the details of the incident were still being verified.
“Our investigation is not over yet, the area is very remote, and difficult to access for security personnel,” he said. “The reports that we have received from people (residents) is that they were school students, in class 10 and 11.”
Ziyae also said the operation involved a ground raid on a multi-family compound, not an air strike, contradicting the governor’s previous statement. From Ziaye’s remarks to reporters, it was unclear if any police officers were in the village yet.
Dec. 29: In Kabul, President Hamid Karzai released a released a statement condemning the operation and reiterating the claim that ten civilians were killed. The statement said nothing about an air strike. A presidential delegation composed of members of parliament and representatives from the ministries of Defense and Interior, the National Directorate of Security and the Office of Administrative Affairs was dispatched to Kunar to investigate.
Spencer Ackerman at The Washington Independent reported on Tuesday that an ISAF official, speaking only on background, told him there had been no air strike.
(Photo: David Axe)
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