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Pajhwok Afghan News, July 7, 2007

Over 100 civilian casualties alleged in Farah airstrike of US-led Coalition

Villagers complained the imprecise sweep caused 108 civilian casualties

Reported by Ahmad Qureshi, Translated & edited by S. Mudassir Ali Shah

HERAT CITY: More than a hundred civilians were killed and wounded in an operation in the western Farah province, residents alleged on Saturday.

Interior Ministry spokesman Zalmay Bashary, however, insisted that 40 Taliban fighters and 11 policemen died during the crackdown conducted against militants in Balabluk district.

Victim of Girishk airstrike
RAWA Photos: Civilian Victims of Girishk air strikes by NATO on June 29, 2007. 45 civilians, many of them women and children, were killed.
Photo Gallery of US victims in Afghanistan
The Afghan Victim Memorial Project by Prof. Marc

In an exclusive chat with Pajhwok Afghan News, the spokesman vehemently scorned the allegation that ordinary Afghans had been killed in the clean-up drive in Shewan area of the district. But he added the claim was being probed.

For their part, irate villagers complained the imprecise sweep caused 108 civilian casualties, something expected to provide the trigger for a new round of protests from the people and rights watchdogs.

Haji Khuda-i-Rahim, head of the Shewan National Solidarity Council, informed this scribe they had reached an understanding with the US-led Coalition and Afghan police on the search of suspects houses.

After the search operation got under way, he charged, security personnel led by local police officer Noor Muhammad started storming into the houses of innocent civilians. An angry reaction from the dwellers touched off a fierce clash, he added.

In an ensuing air and ground offensive by Coalition and Afghan forces left 108 villagers dead and wounded, Rahim maintained. He said 14 policemen were killed and six others including Noor Muhammad were injured in the operation.

Following a strong complaint from tribal elders, he continued, intelligence operatives promised to launch an investigation into the alleged massacre.

Meanwhile, Taliban asserted responsibility for slaying 20 policemen in the Balabluk battle. The insurgents suffered no casualties in the fighting, Zabeehullah Mujahid claimed, saying all the dead and wounded were unarmed citizens.

Farah Governor Maulvi Mohiuddin Baloch, who confirmed the deadly fighting, was unaware of civilian and police casualties.

Earlier, US-led troops claimed killing over 30 Taliban militants in the province. A statement from the press office of the Combined Joint Task Force said the Afghan security forces, supported by Coalition troops, "successfully" thwarted an attempted Taliban ambush in the village of Danjabad on Friday.

The area, where the engagement took place, was located some 42 kilometres northeast of Fire Base Farah, said the statement. No civilian casualties were reported during the engagement, it added.

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