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The Times, March 15, 2010

Survivors of family killed in Afghanistan raid threaten suicide attacks

The family count seven deaths, not five, because the two women were pregnant.

Jerome Starkey, Afghanistan

A family whose members were killed in a botched night raid in eastern Afghanistan have rejected “blood money” from the Government and vowed to carry out suicide attacks unless the perpetrators are brought to justice.

Two pregnant women, a teenage girl, a policeman and his brother were shot dead on February 12 by unidentified gunmen. Eight men were arrested in the raid on the village of Khataba in Paktia province. They have all been released.

Haji Sharabuddin at his son grave
Haji Sharabuddin at his son's grave (Photo: The Times)

No one has claimed responsibility for the killings. A US official in Kabul refused to identify the force involved, citing “utmost national and strategic security interests”.

The United Nations has criticised intelligence agencies in Afghanistan in the past for using paramilitary groups to carry out “extrajudicial killings”. If the force was controlled by the CIA or Afghanistan’s domestic intelligence service it would be exempt from new Nato guidelines designed to limit night raids, which came into force on January 23.

Local elders delivered $2,000 (£1,300) in compensation for each of the five victims to the head of the family, Haji Sharabuddin, after protests brought Gardez, the capital of Paktia, to a halt. “I don’t want money. I want justice,” he said. “All our family, we now don’t care about our lives. We will all do suicide attacks and [the whole province] will support us.”

Nato had claimed that the assault force found the women’s bodies “tied up, gagged and killed”. In its initial statement it also said: “Several insurgents engaged the joint force in a fire fight and were killed.”

An investigation by The Times at and around the scene found both those statements to be untrue. Although the family’s claims that they did not shoot back could not be independently verified, none of the dead was an insurgent. Relatives say that the women were killed during, not before, the raid.

Nato officials continued to brief journalists in Kabul yesterday that the women were victims of an “honour” killing. However, they did not explain why the bodies would have been kept in the house overnight, against Islamic custom, nor why the family had invited 25 guests to celebrate the naming of a newborn child the same evening. Nato denies accusations of a cover-up.

An undated document seen by The Times that was presented by US forces to Commander Dawood, the dead policeman, praised him for his work and “dedication and willingness to serve the people of Afghanistan”. It said he would “ensure the stability of your country for many years”.

Commander Dawood’s brother, Saranwal Zahir, was a district attorney in Ahmadabad district, also in Paktia. The two married women were four and five months pregnant. The teenage girl, Gulalai, was engaged to be married this summer.

“Before, when I heard reports of raids like this and elders said [foreign troops] only came to colonise Afghanistan, I told them they are here to help us,” said Sayed Mohammed Mal, the vice-chancellor of Gardez University, whose son Mansoor was Gulalai’s fiancÚ. “But when I witnessed this in my family’s home, I realised I was wrong. Now I accept the things those people told me. I hate [foreign forces]. I hate the Government.”

Afghan officials insist that the raid was a mistake. None of the people reached by The Times said that the family had links with the Taleban.

“My father was friends with the Americans and they killed him.,” said Commander Dawood’s son, Abdul Ghafar, as he held a dog-eared photograph showing the policeman with three US soldiers. One of the Americans had his arm around Mr Dawood. “They killed my father. I want to kill them. I want the killers brought to justice.”

The family suspect that a spy may have deliberately misled the assault force and the relatives have appealed to President Karzai to hand him over.

“If the Government don’t give us the spy I will carry a holy Koran to the presidential palace and ask, why don’t you help us? Why do you let the Americans carry out these operations?” Mr Dawood’s mother, Bibi Sabsparie, said. Haji Sharabuddin, her husband, said that he wanted the spy shot, hanged and burnt.

“The foreigners are always talking about human rights. But they don’t care about human rights,” said Gulalai’s father, Mohammed Tahir. “They teach us human rights then they kill a load of civilians. They didn’t come here to end terrorism. They are terrorists.”

Mohammed Sabir, whose wife, Bibi Shirin, was killed, suggested vengeance: “If the Americans don’t give us the spy, bring us seven Americans and we will kill them.”

The family count seven deaths, not five, because the two women were pregnant.

Afghan women killed in the NATO raid
L to R: 1) Bibi Saleha, 37, had 11 children. 2) The other victim, Gulalai, 18, was engaged. 3) Bibi Shirin and her daughter Tamana. The women's faces have been blurred in these photographs at the request of their families. (Photos: The Times)

Category: Women, US-NATO, HR Violations, Protest - Views: 9900