ABC News, May 5, 2011

Australian troops accused of killing civilian in Afghanistan

He says he was not a Talib nor had any links with them - he just used to work and study

By Sally Sara

PETER CAVE: Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission says a man shot during a battle with Australian Special Forces soldiers was a civilian, not an insurgent.

An infant also died from gunshot wounds he received in the firefight.

The relatives of the victims say that Australian troops took innocent lives, but the Defence Force says the case is still being investigated.

Afghanistan correspondent Sally Sara has this exclusive report.

SALLY SARA: It's still not exactly clear what happened near the village of Sah Zafar on March 27.

The Defence Force says insurgents opened fire on a joint patrol of Australian special forces soldiers and Afghan police.

When the shooting stopped a 23-month-old boy Hekmat Ullah was found critically injured with gunshot wounds.

His uncle, 24-year-old local mullah, Lal Awar Khan had been shot dead next to him.

Abdul Bari Yusufi from Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission says based on their information collected from villagers, Mr Khan was a civilian.

Australian troops say Lal Awar Khan was a suspected insurgent and the skin on his forearms tested positive to traces of explosives.

But his uncle, Abdul Ghafoor says Mr Khan and his brother who was also at the scene were innocent.

He says he was not a Talib nor had any links with them - he just used to work and study.

The incident happened in long grass along a creek line near Sah Zafar.

Australian troops provided first aid and medevaced the wounded infant Hekmat Ullah but he died in a military hospital six days later.

Abdul Bari Yusufi from the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission says the commission is calling on foreigners and has called on oppositions as well to pay enough attention on civilian casualties during fighting.

The family of Lal Awar Khan has not requested compensation from the Australian Government but is delivering a message.

Mr Khan's uncle, Abdul Ghafoor says he wants the Australian troops to rebuild the country, listen to the voice of the poor, the widows and the needy people.

He says innocent people shouldn't die anymore and justice should be done.

The issue of civilian casualties is politically sensitive in Afghanistan.

Coalition forces are under pressure to provide security and often patrol in areas where it's difficult to tell who's who.

The Australian Defence Force says it may take several months before the release of its official report into the incident.

This is Sally Sara in Kabul for AM.

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