View Full Version : Germany says sorry to Afghanistan

04-05-2010, 02:51 AM
NATO admits killing Afghan civilians in February raid

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- NATO acknowledged Sunday that its troops killed five Afghans in a botched nighttime raid in February -- after initially saying the civilians may have been victims of an "honor killing."
Even though civilian casualties at the hands of NATO troops have fallen off in recent months, such incidents have strained relationship between Afghanistan and the Western nations that make up the International Security Assistance Force.
At the time of the February 12 incident, NATO said its troops went to a compound in the village of Khatabeh in the Paktia province, believing it to be a militant hideout.
A firefight ensued and several insurgents died, NATO said at the time.
When soldiers entered the compound, they found the bodies of two men and two women who had been shot "execution-style," a senior U.S. military official said then.
"It has the earmarks of a traditional honor killing," the official said, adding that the women were found bound and gagged.
An honor killing is a murder carried out by a family or community member against someone thought to have brought dishonor to them.
The U.S official said at the time it wasn't clear whether dishonor in the case stemmed from accusations of acts such as adultery or even cooperation with NATO forces.
But on Sunday, NATO made an about-face from its earlier claims.
"International forces were responsible for the deaths of three women who were in the same compound where two men were killed by the joint Afghan-international patrol searching for a Taliban insurgent," it said in a statement. There was no explanation given of the third woman's death.
The two armed men that troops killed were not insurgents, NATO said.
"The force went to the compound based on reliable information in search of a Taliban insurgent and believed that the two men posed a threat to their personal safety," it said. "We now understand that the men killed were only trying to protect their families."
NATO said a lack of forensic evidence made it difficult for it to conclusively determine how or when the three women died. But it concluded they were killed when troops fired at the men.
As for the initial report about the women being found bound and gagged, the NATO statement said it stemmed from a cultural misunderstanding.
"The statement noted the women had been bound and gagged, but this information was taken from an initial report by the international members of the joint force who were not familiar with Islamic burial customs," the statement said, without elaborating.
NATO troops who went to the scene after the raid may have misinterpreted burial rites. Muslims wrap their dead in clean white cloth before they are laid in the ground.
NATO said it will apologize to the victims' family members and offer compensation in accordance with local customs.
The NATO admission follows the fatal shooting of five Afghan soldiers by troops in a friendly fire incident in northern Afghanistan on Friday. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has strongly criticized civilian deaths by international troops, and the deaths have bred resentment among many Afghans.
The numbers have fallen off in recent months since Gen. Stanley McChrystal took over as U.S. commander in Afghanistan.
"It is better to miss a target than to cause civilian casualties," he said in December. "We can always target enemy leaders later. We can't make up for the fact that we killed civilians."