Earlier this week, Taliban had hijacked NATO fuel trucks. On late Thursday or early Friday, NATO war planes located and struck at the trucks, after aerial surveillance seemed to show insurgent activity around them. But unexpectedly, the NATO air strikes did not just kill a few insurgents, but rather dozens of people– at least 95 and perhaps many more. The insurgent story is that the trucks had gotten bogged down in a river bed and the Taliban, unable to move it, were giving out the fuel for free to villagers. The hundreds of dead and wounded were thus ordinary Afghans who had gathered to receive the petroleum windfall. In contrast, Engineer Muhammad Omar, the provincial governor of Kunduz (the northern area where the NATO attack took place), maintained that 45 of those killed were Taliban fighters. This Dari Persian site says that the security chief in Kunduz is maintaining that only Taliban died in the strike.
President Hamid Karzai is reported to have expressed shock at the extent of the loss of life, and on Saturday he ordered an investigation into the incident.
If there is a run-off in the current presidential election cycle, Karzai’s prospects for reelection just took a hit, since he is widely viewed as America’s man in Kabul, and US popularity just declined.
Aljazeera English has video of the reaction in Afghanistan to the air strike on the tankers and the civilian casualties.
The USG Open Source Center translates the Statement of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan- Taliban, posted to a bulletin board on Sept. 4: “Yesterday at sunset, more than 90 civilians were killed and a similar number seriously wounded as a result of the indiscriminate and barbaric American shelling of a gathering of residents near the market in the Ali Abad District, Kunduz Province. According to the locals, all the martyrs were innocent civilians. The mujahidin did not suffer any losses. A large number of women and children were among the martyrs. They were preparing to have the evening meal at the end of the day’s fasting. It was at that time that the American occupation forces shelled the area indiscriminately and killed all these people. This is not the first time the barbaric American forces have carried out such raids.”
If the attack really did kill large numbers of civilians, it obviously will be a big propaganda victory for the Taliban and a black eye for NATO.
Riz Khan at Aljazeera English discusses the controversial elections in Afghanistan with Tamim Ansari, Robert Crewes (co-editor of a book on the Taliban), and Halima Karzai
ITN reports on the resignation of Eric Joyce – the Parliamentary Aide to the Defence Secretary – who says that the casualty toll for British troops in Afghanistan can no longer be justified.
The Independent has more on how Gordon Brown’s government was rocked by Joyce’s noisy departure.
Russia Today reports that although opium poppy production in Afghanistan fell 20% in the past year, the US still needs a new strategy for dealing with the problem, which fuels narco-terrorist cartels.
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