29 Mar 2007

PR# 2007-249

ISAF refutes Reuters’ claim of 60 civilians killed in Kandahar Province in January

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – In a story, headlined “NATO Troops earn resentment of frustrated Afghans,” dated 27 March 2007, Reuters reported that “About 60 people including innocent women and children, were killed by NATO planes during fighting in the southern province of Kandahar in January during an important Muslim holiday.” The Reuters story also claims, according to a source, that “panicky” ISAF soldiers have killed innocent people. 

A thorough review of both battle damage assessments and claims put forward for January 2007 does not corroborate the numbers reported in the Reuters story. As a result, ISAF refutes the claim made by Reuters.

As for the specific allegation that NATO planes killed 60 innocent Afghans in Kandahar Province in January, it is important to note that ISAF did not launch any major air strike offensives during that month in Kandahar Province.  The majority of air strikes in the province of Kandahar occurred in the initial stages of Operation Baaz Tsuka, specifically on 13 and 19 December 2006.  During these strikes, our battle damage assessments did not reveal any innocent Afghans killed.  Our records do show, however, that ISAF operations may have injured some civilians in December 2006 and these claims, which were filed in January 2007, are still being processed.

ISAF takes extraordinary measures to prevent any type of collateral damage and operates on the principal of avoiding any and all civilian casualties during operations.  This has been a long standing practise and ISAF continues to apply this principle rigorously.

It is equally important to note that in addition to conducting battle damage assessments, ISAF works closely with the Government of Afghanistan through a detailed process by which evidence and claims can be put forward by Afghans in cases where innocent people are killed or collateral damage was caused. 

“Every Afghan killed in this conflict is one Afghan too many,” stated Major General Ton van Loon, Commander of Regional Command South. “Local

Afghans in areas where we are currently conducting operations have clearly told us that they are essentially held hostage by Taliban extremists.  Our operations are therefore planned as such and we take every possible precaution to prevent the accidental killing or injuring of local Afghans.  If this means cancelling or delaying operations, then this is what I will continue to do,” he added.

Regarding claims by Reuters that the “panicking” actions of ISAF troops have killed innocent people during battles, ISAF stands firmly behind its troops who, to the contrary, have not only demonstrated courage in the performance of their duty but have repeatedly demonstrated restraint during battles with extremists. ISAF troops demonstrated restraint in occasions such as on 7 February in the Kajaki area where extremists used children to cover their retreat, causing ISAF forces to stop engaging the enemy. Similarly, they showed control in the Garmsir area on 7 March when extremists sought refuge in a Mosque, temporarily causing ISAF forces to cease fighting until extremists started engaging from the Mosque.  During the same operation, ISAF troops ceased fire on the enemy who took refuge where innocent Afghans were believed to be residing. 

In contrast to the restraint of ISAF forces, suicide attacks targeting Afghan National Security Forces or ISAF troops often kill innocent civilian bystanders. For 2007 alone, these indiscriminate attacks, often launched by extremists in crowded areas, have killed 25 local Afghan civilians and wounded more than 60 others.  For the month of March alone, 18 innocent Afghans have been killed and more than 12 innocent Afghans have been wounded as the direct result of enemy improvised explosive device attacks.

Contact Information ISAF Public Affairs Office
Tel: +93 (0)799 51 1155 - Mobile: 0093 (0) 799 55 8291 pressoffice@hq.isaf.nato.int - www.nato.int/isaf/