Foreign troops kill Afghan civilians in Kandahar

Filed on March 31, 2011

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Foreign troops killed two Afghan civilians in restive southern Kandahar city on Thursday, a police detective said, days after the publication of gruesome photos of the body of an unarmed teenager murdered by US soldiers nearby.

NATO soldiers opened fire after a car with brake failure sped towards a checkpoint set up by foreign and Afghan troops, who thought the vehicle was part of a suicide attack, said Fazel Ahmad Sherzad, a senior detective in Kandahar city.

Two civilians were killed and four wounded by bullets that hit more than one car, he said, adding that the dead were both adolescent boys. Dawood Farhad, a doctor at Kandahar provincial hospital, said two bodies were brought in with gunshot wounds.

NATO-led forces said they had opened fire in self-defence after a civilian car veered across a ditch and struck at least three members of a foot patrol.

After the troops opened fire, the car went into the ditch and flipped over, killing the passenger and a nearby pedestrian and wounding two other civilians, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said in a statement.

Civilian casualties caused by foreign troops have long been a source of tension between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Western allies. They also anger Afghans, complicating efforts to win their support for a war that has brought only misery for most ordinary people.

The incident is still being assessed, the statement added, but it comes in a sensitive area — the US has poured troops into Kandahar to try to win back control of the Taleban stronghold and there has been bitter fighting in districts around the city — and at a sensitive time.

The deaths come just days after the first of five US soldiers charged with killing unarmed Afghan civilians was sentenced to 24 years in prison after pleading guilty to three counts of premeditated murder.

That case represents the most serious prosecution of alleged US military atrocities during 10 years of war in Afghanistan.

Rolling Stone and German magazine Der Spiegel recently published photos of two of the soldiers posing separately with the bloodied corpse of their young Afghan victim, whose head they were holding up by the hair.

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