27 Jun 2007

PR# 2007-483

Gereshk mayor: enemy used 'human shields'

HELMAND, Afghanistan – The senior ISAF commander here and the mayor of Gereshk met June 23 to discuss the death of civilians in an air strike June 21 and how to avoid civilian casualties in the future.

The mayor of Gereshk and his chief of police explained to family members of the deceased that the death of the civilians appeared to be an accident.  They said the deaths were likely due to the Taliban using civilians as human shields during an attack against ISAF in the Barazezay Kalay area, the official added.

ISAF officials asked the Afghan National Army to patrol the area and talk to the locals to calm their fears and anger.  At approximately 10:30 a.m. June 22 Taliban gunmen opened fire on one of the ANA patrols.  The Taliban used the funeral of those who died as cover for the attack and fired an estimated 60 rocket-propelled grenades.

The ANA withdrew from the battle without taking any casualties in order to prevent further civilians from being injured.

At 2 p.m. local senior Afghan officials and ISAF officers conducted a shura to discuss the incident. Senior ISAF commanders expressed their deep regret at the tragic incident.

The shura confirmed a number of Taliban fighters had been killed in the fighting and said that the Taliban had been using the civilians as cover for attacks upon ISAF and ANA forces and that the Taliban were ultimately responsible for the deaths.

The incident in question occurred when ISAF forces were conducting an operation in the village of Barazezay Kalay to protect Gereshk and remove the Taliban extremists from the area.  During a patrol through the village at 9 p.m. the patrol came under intense small-arms fire from a large compound.  

The gun battle lasted four hours with extremists firing at ISAF troops from among the civilians in the compound.

The ISAF troops repositioned to the Helmand River where they stayed out of sight of the compound but where they would have an opportunity to protect the area from Taliban infiltration.  As they were repositioning, approximately 20 Taliban fighters were seen and positively identified in this compound.  ISAF officials decided to engage them with a ISAF aircraft.

The following morning, representatives of the Afghan authorities in Gereshk informed the local ISAF commander that there were reports that a number of civilians had been injured in the area that night. 

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/