US troops accused of killing Afghan civilians following car-bombing

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

US Marines in Afghanistan

On Sunday, US Marine Special Forces who had just escaped an early-morning ambush by Taliban insurgents in Muhmand Dara, Afghanistan, retaliated by opening fire on nearby civilians, including pedestrians and as many as 15 passing cars, including those that had pulled to the side of the road to comply with orders.

Haji Ihsanullah, a member of Hezb e Islami initially drove a minivan laden with explosives into one of the five vehicles making up the US convoy, which included three humvees, slightly wounding one Marine. Sources differ on whether or not hidden gunmen then also opened fire on the convoy.

US forces then fled the scene of the ambush "firing wildly", opening fire on every civilian and vehicle they saw for 6 miles while driving along the Afghan street.

Initial reports stated that 14 civilians had been killed in the attack, and another 35 were wounded by the gunfire. But officials at Bagram Air Base later claimed that only 8 had been killed. Other sources reported that 4 of the wounded later died of their injuries at Jalalabad Hospital.

The event was described as an "emotional" response by the US forces, by Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Zmarai Bashiri. Thousands of Afghans gathered to protest the shooting. US troops also forced two Associated Press photojournalists to delete their digital photographs of the attack's aftermath, although al Jazeera photojournalists then visited the scene and captured similar footage.

The shooting is under investigation by both Afghan and US officials.