NATO troops kill seven members of private security firm in eastern Afghanistan

December 11th, 2010 - 6:57 pm ICT by BNO News  

KABUL (BNO NEWS) — Coalition forces in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday killed seven armed men who are believed to have been part of a private security firm, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said.

ISAF said its forces were conducting an operation in Paktiya province and were targeting a Haqqani facilitator who may be linked to a suicide attack on Forward Operating Base (FOB) Lightning near Gardez City last Sunday, killing two U.S. soldiers and wounding several others. Haqqani is an insurgent group which is closely allied with the Taliban.

Hours after last Sunday’s attack, coalition forces had already detained a suspected Haqqani facilitator in the area. And on Saturday, the second suspected facilitator was detained without incident at the targeted compound.

After the arrest, Afghan and coalition forces moved to a follow-on-target nearby to investigate suspected insurgent activity. “The security force used a bullhorn and in Pashtun language called for all occupants of the targeted vehicle and compound to exit peacefully,” an ISAF spokesperson said.

During the call-out, the alliance said, a male carrying an AK-47 exited an SUV and approached the security force. “The security force assessed the individual to be hostile and shot him,” the spokesperson added.

After the male had been shot and killed, six more were killed when other armed individuals engaged the force. They are all believed to have been members of a private security firm.

“Security forces make extensive efforts to avoid harm to civilian non-combatants and always consider the risk of injuring civilians when determining whether to take action against a dangerous threat,” an ISAF spokesperson explained. “The security force is reviewing events from last night’s operation but every soldier has the inherent right to self-defense.”

ISAF said it is still investigating who the individuals were, why they were armed and why they were in the area at that time. “The security force takes civilian casualty allegations seriously,” the alliance added. No soldiers were reported injured in the shooting incident.

There have been several civilian casualty incidents in Afghanistan in recent months. Last month, ISAF admitted that its coalition forces were responsible for the deaths of at least three civilians in northeast Afghanistan when they fired mortar rounds in response to insurgent attacks. Several of the rounds struck a civilian home, causing the casualties which is believed to have included children.

In August, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released its 2010 Mid-Year Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict. It revealed that the number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan rose by approximately 31 percent in the first semester of 2010.

However, the Taliban and other insurgent groups remain the main causes of these casualties. “Afghan children and women are increasingly bearing the brunt of this conflict. They are being killed and injured in their homes and communities in greater numbers than ever before,” said Staffan de Mistura, Special Representative of the Secretary-General.

From January 1 to June 30, UNAMA registered a total of 3,268 civilian casualties, including 1,271 deaths and 1,997 injuries. Out of this number, insurgents were responsible for 2,477 casualties (76 percent of all casualties, 53 percent more than in 2009) while 386 were attributed to pro-government forces such as NATO. It accounted for 12 percent of all casualties, which is 30 percent less than in 2009.

UNAMA said that the increase in the number of casualties is attributed to the use of a greater number of larger and more sophisticated improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and the number of civilians assassinated and executed by anti-government forces (which included the public executions of children).

“The devastating human impact of these events underscores that, nine years into the conflict, measures to protect Afghan civilians effectively and to minimize the impact of the conflict on basic human rights are more urgent than ever,” said Georgette Gagnon, Director of Human Rights for UNAMA. “All those concerned must do more to protect civilians and comply with their legal obligations not to attack civilians.”

IEDs and suicide attacks carried out by insurgents killed 557 Afghans and injured 1,137 in the first six months of 2010. On the other hand, aerial attacks by ISAF remained the most harmful pro-government tactic, causing 69 of the 223 civilian deaths attributed to pro-government forces during the reporting period.

The southern region witnessed more than half of the assassinations and executions in Afghanistan, where more than one hundred Afghan civilians were killed in such incidents. These civilians killed included teachers, nurses, doctors, tribal elders, community leaders, provincial and district officials, other civilians including children, and civilians working for international military forces and international organizations.

UNAMA urged insurgents in its report to stop the use of IEDs as these cause a great number of fatalities. The agency also suggested the Afghan Government to create a public body to lead its response to major civilian casualty incidents and its interaction with international military forces.

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