In memory of and sympathy for

  

Abdul Karim’s 4 neighbors

At least ten persons in 2 bombed minivans

killed during May 2008

 

in Garmser and its surroundings. In late April, the US occupation 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) moved into the Garmser region of Helmand Province. The censorship of any independent media reporting was extreme. Finally, we are now beginnining to learn of what really has transpired thanks to some (non-embedded) independent reporting.  A team from the IWPR released an account on June 3rd. The U.S. assault displaced 8,000 families according to Helmand’s governor, Gulab Mangal. The refugees huddle under tents, parched and hungry. Mangal added that rather than displacing resistance fighters, the U.S. presence has attracted them so that while there were about 500 foreign fighters in the area before, now the number is 1,100. Local residents bear most of the suffering. For example, Aslam a small boy of about three, said “we were all running and it was dark and I lost my mother, and I cried…this man found me (pointing to Akhtar Mohammad), but I am afraid. There are bombs and airplanes during the night, and I want my mother.” Sher Agha, resident of Garmser added, “I saw old men, women, children, just running, trying to save themselves. No one looked out for their children, their parents. It was everyone for himself.”  Ahmad Shah, a 43-year-old peasant farmer, told the IRIN news agency on the weekend: “Now my family and I live almost 10 kilometers from Lashkar Gah city. I have made a shelter from blanket pieces to live under, in an open area. I left my home with four children and my wife three weeks ago because of fighting. Now I need a tent, I need food. My children may die under the hot burning sun of Lashkar Gah.”

The font of official lies, Brigadier General Carlos Branco of Portugal, proclaimed that the careful planning and restraint exercised by NATO forces had meant there were no reports of civilian casualties. Of course not, given the extreme censorship of any independent reporting. In Branco’s version, only “Taliban” or “insurgents” are killed. 

This absence of civilian casualties is hotly disputed. Abdul Karim who had fled to Lashkar Gah from the village of Ameiraga in Garmser, told IWPR that a bomb hit his neighbor’s home, killing four people. A poppy harvester told IWPR that he too had just arrived in Lashkar Gah from Garmser, recounting “I saw two Town Ace (Toyota minivan) vehicles full of women and children who were trying to escape. The cars were bombed and completely destroyed. I cannot say how many were killed because we ran and hid, but we could see the fire and the smoke coming out of the [vans].” 

The deputy director of Afghanistan’s Civil Rights organization, Faruq Dawar, argued that this type of military offensive only aggravates the situation, “civilian casualties are the reason security is getting worse. The relatives of those killed join the ranks of the enemy to exact revenge.” 

Killed in US/NATO air and ground assaults