Cold blooded murder in Kunduz, Afghanistan

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by Paul S. Graham, April 18, 2009

Last month, I posted an Al Jazeera video shot in the aftermath of the March 22nd dawn raid on the town of Kunduz, Afghanistan, by troops believed to be U.S. Special Forces that left five Afghan men dead. The townspeople claimed the men were unconnected to the insurgency and that some were killed as they slept. The Americans claimed they were killed in a firefight after they responded to a demand for surrender with gunfire.

Kunduz is no stranger to murder or to U.S. Special Forces. Following the Siege of Kunduz in November 2001, three thousand captured Taliban fighters were packed into sealed containers and loaded onto trucks for transport to Sheberghan prison. When the prisoners began shouting for air, Northern Alliance soldiers fired into the trucks, killing many of them.

Witnesses say that when the trucks arrived and soldiers opened the containers, most of the people inside were dead. They also say U.S. Special Forces re-directed the containers carrying the living and dead into the desert and stood by as survivors were shot and buried.

This atrocity is described in Afghan Massacre: the Convoy of Death, a documentary produced and directed by Irish filmmaker Jamie Doran.

Fast-forward to 2009 — a new report by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting provides chilling, compelling and credible evidence that the March 22, 2009 American raid on Kunduz, Afghanistan was cold blooded murder. Read on.

IWPR Probe Challenges US Account of Kunduz Killings

Findings suggest five men killed by US forces in counter-insurgency operation had no extremist connections.

By IWPR reporters in Kunduz (ARR No. 319, 16-Apr-09)

An IWPR investigation has challenged the American military’s account of a recent raid by its forces on a town close to the border with Tajikistan, in which a number of men were either killed or taken away for questioning.

Over the past few weeks, local and international media reports have speculated about the motive for the March 22 dawn attack on Imam Sahib and the identity of those killed and detained.

The United States military has insisted that its forces stormed what it describes as a militant stronghold in Kunduz. It claims the troops battled insurgents, killing five and detaining four. But an IWPR probe, based on extensive interviews with local people, questions key aspects of the US army’s version of events.

The principal IWPR findings suggest the five men killed had no connection with extremists and cast doubt on the American claim that the victims had opened fire on the troops. Reporters’ enquiries indicate that only one of those killed owned a weapon and that two were asleep when they were shot.

It was the middle of the night, about 3.30 am, when the two Chinook helicopters landed in Imam Sahib, residents told IWPR, and approximately 60 soldiers zeroed in on a compound belonging to the mayor of the town, Sufi Abdul Manan. They blew in the gate, and then, equipped with night-vision goggles and guns with silencers, advanced into the courtyard and surrounded a guesthouse where visitors to the town often stayed, locals claim.

I was awoken by the sound of these large helicopters and saw Americans approaching the gate of the guesthouse,” said the owner of a fuel station nearby. “They had things on their helmets. I hid, so I could not be seen. I heard a sound from shots – like a ‘phhht-phhhht’.”

A baker in an adjoining compound said,

I could not see anything, but I heard a big bang, I think it was the Americans blowing up the gate.

Townsfolk say there were nine men in the guesthouse that night. Judging by the position of the bodies, seen by an IWPR reporter in an amateur video shot by a local right after the incident, the soldiers shot two men as they lay sleeping in their beds: Hassan Jan and Almed Imam.

Residents say the former made tea for guests and enjoyed listening to his music in the garden; while the latter, a long-time resident of the guesthouse, did some cleaning and washed vehicles parked inside the compound.

The soldiers also shot the mayor’s driver Obaidullah, who – from the video evidence – appeared to be trying to run away, and the mayor’s bodyguard, Nasrullah, along with his cousin Naqibullah, who had been living in the guesthouse for several weeks while he looked for a job in Imam Sahib, locals say.

They insist Nasrullah was the only one of the victims to possess a gun – his Kalashnikov was registered with the local authorities and was used to protect the mayor.

We were in a room near the courtyard of the guesthouse, and we could hear the shots – those ‘phhht’ sounds of guns with silencers,” said the mayor. “We could hear Nasrullah, my bodyguard, who was probably standing in front of the gate to our house. He was begging the Americans not to enter, he kept saying ‘there are women and children there.’ Then there was another shot, and we did not hear Nasrullah any more.”

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