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2010-05-17

Afghans Protest Deadly Nighttime Raid: "If the Americans Do This Again, We Are Ready to Shed Our Blood Fighting Them"

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Mourners continued to gather on Saturday in the small farming village of Koshkaky, in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, where an early Friday morning raid by US and Afghan Special Forces left eight people dead. The military issued a statement saying that their forces came under attack, and in the firefight a Taliban subcommander and seven militants were killed. They reported that no civilians were harmed. But residents here tell a different story. Independent journalist Rick Rowley of Big Noise Films was at the scene and filed this report. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to the war in Afghanistan, where the number of civilian casualties continues to mount. Last week, President Obama met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the White House. At a news conference, Obama addressed the rising number of civilian casualties.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: When there is a civilian casualty, that is not just a political problem for me. I am ultimately accountable, just as General McChrystal is accountable, for somebody who is not on the battlefield who got killed. And that is something that I have to carry with me and that anybody who’s involved in a military operation has to carry with them. And so we do not take that lightly. We have an interest in reducing civilian casualties not because it’s a problem for President Karzai; we have an interest in reducing civilian casualties because I don’t want civilians killed.

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama did not detail how he or General McChrystal are held accountable when US forces kill Afghan civilians. The number of civilians killed by US forces has spiked in recent years. In the most recent incident, NATO-led forces have been accused of killing between nine and fifteen Afghan civilians in a Friday morning raid near the city of Jalalabad. Hundreds of Afghans set fire to tires and blocked streets to protest the killings. Independent journalist Rick Rowley of Big Noise Films was at the scene and filed this report.

    RICK ROWLEY: Mourners continued to gather on Saturday in the small farming village of Koshkaky, in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, where an early Friday morning raid by US and Afghan Special Forces left eight people dead.

    The military issued a statement saying that their forces came under attack, and in the firefight a Taliban subcommander and seven militants were killed. They reported that no civilians were harmed. But residents here tell a different story.

      NAZIR AHMAD: [translated] We woke up when we heard them open fire. They shot three people in the guesthouse, and we thought thieves had come in from the desert. One of my brothers-in-law went to the roof to see who was there. As he climbed the stairs, the Americans shot him, and he died instantly. The second boy was his son. They hit him with a grenade. He survived until five in the morning. He was sixteen years old. He bled to death from the wound in his leg. We went outside to see what was happening, and the Americans were already on top of the walls. They shot and killed five of us.

    RICK ROWLEY: Nazir Ahmad still has pieces of shrapnel in his face, and his baby daughter was hurt in the attack. He says he has always supported the government — three of his family members are in the parliament — but attacks like this are turning Afghans against the government and the Americans.

      NAZIR AHMAD: [translated] If the military keeps doing this, the people will go into the mountains to fight them. When I saw my daughter injured, all I could think about was putting on a suicide jacket.

    RICK ROWLEY: Nazir’s brother-in law, Sayid Rahim, is buried here with his four sons in a small graveyard on the edge of the main road. The US attack only lasted a few minutes, but it left the entire male side of the family dead. The mourners here say the US military has lost all credibility.

      MOURNER 1: [translated] The US Army will say anything. Everyone knows that. If you don’t trust me, ask one of our elders.

      MOURNER 2: [translated] They are lying. We live here, and we know what happened.

    RICK ROWLEY: Whether Sayid Rahim and his family were simple farmers or Taliban militants, as NATO alleges, their killings have destabilized what was a calm district. Hours after the attack, angry residents marched on the provincial capital. When the police blocked their path, they attacked the police headquarters, smashing its windows with stones. The police opened fire, killing one demonstrator and wounding several others.

      MOURNER 2: [translated] If the Americans do this again, we are ready to shed our blood fighting them. We would rather die than sit by and do nothing. If there was anyone here trying to destroy our country, we would capture them and hand them over to the government. It is our land and our duty to defend it against both foreigners and insurgent infiltrators.

    RICK ROWLEY: For Democracy Now!, this is Rick Rowley with Jason Motlagh for Big Noise Films and the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, the War and Peace Report. We’ll be back in a minute.

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