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Brutal US attack on unarmed Afghans captured by photos

Tom Coghlan / London Independent | August 8 2006

Claims that US troops shot dead up to six unarmed Afghan civilians two months ago in Kabul have been given added credibility with a series of photographs offering visual evidence of military misconduct.

The pictures were taken by an Afghan passer-by on 29 May in Khair Kane, a district of north Kabul. The 20 photographs appear to show a group of unarmed Afghan civilians being killed by gunfire from an American Humvee.

The allegations made in Kabul follow other recent incidents in which US troops are alleged to have used disproportionate or reckless force against civilians, most notably in Haditha, Iraq, on 19 November 2005 when US troops allegedly killed 15 civilians.

The Kabul pictures were taken as American vehicles fled the scene of an accident in which several Afghans were killed and injured after a US Army truck lost control and hit a number of civilian vehicles. Shot from a hillside above where the original accident took place, they show a crowd of Afghans throwing stones at the American vehicles.

A sequence of pictures show US vehicles leaving at high speed as the crowd stones them. In one sequence, a clearly unarmed Afghan man is seen with an American Humvee in the background, then as part of a group of men throwing stones towards the Americans. Two frames later his lifeless body is on the ground, having apparently been shot in the chest.

Another picture shows the body of an 18-year-old mechanic named Maiwan. His family said he was also hit by bullets fired from a US Humvee towards the crowd. His brother Jawad, 19, said Maiwan died from wounds to his knee and chest. "We are not the sort of people to do anything against US forces," said Jawad. "Maiwan was quiet and friendly. My father loved him too much, more than the rest of us."
The photographer, Atif Ahmadzai, 34, said: "I thought at first they were firing into the air. I was on the hill taking the pictures and, as they fired towards me, I ducked. One bullet grazed my thigh. Two people were killed behind me." He said he saw six bodies in total.

The day after the rioting he took the pictures to the US embassy. "I told them,'Just look at the people in the pictures, they are all unarmed'," he said. A statement released by the US military said a US Army truck had suffered a brake failure, causing it to lose control and hit up to 13 Afghan civilian vehicles, killing one person. The statement said: "There are indications that at least one coalition military vehicle fired warning shots over the crowd." US forces have launched an investigation into the incident, the results of which are due to be published next week.

All the witnesses to the incident reported at least one US vehicle opened fire on the civilians. "I saw with my own eyes that the soldier fired on the people," said Nazir Akhmad, 32, who owns a petrol station near where the accident occurred. "Her gun was pointed in the air but then she brought it down and started firing. The first bullet killed a boy called Khaled."

The US military declined to comment yesterday on its investigation. The US spokesman, Col Tom Collins, said: "I can't comment on the results of the investigation but there is no doubt that our soldiers thought there was fire emanating from the crowd."


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