AFGHANISTAN: NATO Airstrike Kills 14 Afghans

Publisher Name: 
New York Times

A NATO airstrike killed 14 laborers
working for an Afghan road construction company that had been
contracted by the United States Army Corps of Engineers to build a
road in the mountainous province of Nuristan in eastern Afghanistan,
officials said.




The strike occurred late Monday night in the Norgram district of
Nuristan when the Afghan workers of Amerifa Road Construction Company
were sleeping in tents after a day's work.




"Fourteen of our mechanics and laborers were killed as they were
asleep in their tents," said Nurullah Jalali, the executive director
of the construction company. "We just collected pieces of flesh from
our tired workers and put them in 14 coffins."




The governor of Nuristan, Tamim Nuristani, said he could confirm that
13 workers had been "mistakenly" killed when NATO forces bombed
the area based on what he said was an intelligence report that
insurgents were infiltrating the area.




"All these victims are civilians, and they were from nearby
provinces," Mr. Nuristani said.




A NATO spokesman said its forces had struck the area in an attack on
what it believed were Taliban insurgents but could not confirm that
the road workers had been killed.




Mr. Jalali said that in the year his company had worked in the region,
his workers had not come across any militants. "We have not seen any
evidence of insurgency in that specific area, and we don't know why
and who attacked our laborers," he said.




The 37-mile road project is the first time in the history of Nuristan
that roads are being built connecting its mountainous districts.




The project is financed by the United States military and the road has
been under construction for a year through areas that the Afghan
government barely controls.




A NATO spokesman confirmed that the aerial bombardment of the location
was a mission by NATO's International Security Assistance Force and
said that Taliban insurgents were supposed to be the target.




"I can't confirm that at this time, we, I.S.A.F., believe that we
were able to successfully target a Taliban leader in that area and at
that time," the spokesman, Maj. Charles Anthony, said. "As far as
the allegation of civilian casualties goes, that is under
investigation."




Civilian deaths have touched a nerve with Afghans after six years of
American and NATO- led operations in Afghanistan and have become a
major issue for the government of President Hamid Karzai, who has
repeatedly pleaded with international forces to use extreme care while
conducting operations.




The victims of the episode on Monday night were all Afghans who were
working for $5 a day to build the road, Mr. Jalali said. His company
has been contracted to build 273 miles of road in 10 provinces of
Afghanistan, and the major contracts are with the American
military.




Mr. Jalali said he thought the accident happened because the foreign
military either lacked information or had incorrect information while
conducting their operations.

"Our advice is for
those who have air forces in Afghanistan to confirm their information
first and then act, otherwise Afghanistan will go back to atrocities,"
he said.
AMP Section Name:War & Disaster Profiteering
  • 21 Reconstruction