In memory of and sympathy for

 

The Lakari Massacre

17-18 civilians killed, including:

Abdul Manaan’s two brothers

Nabi Jan’s two babies

Borjan’s two cousins

Haji Ali Mohammad’s 2 grown-up sons

Other civilians severely injured

at 2 A.M. on Sunday, November 17/18, 2007

 

in the hamlet of Lakari, 2 kms from the village of Toube (Tebbi?) in the Garmsir district of southern Helmand along the Helmand River. The Taliban have long had a strong presence in Garmsir. Foreign troops (U.S. Special Forces) with Afghan soldiers arrived by air in the village at 2 A.M. in the night (as is usual with such air borne attacks). What ensued was a gruesome massacre successfully kept out of sight of the world for almost a month by military “news management” and mainstream western media neglect. The story was broken by two Afghan journalists of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR) in the Afghan Recovery Report dated December 10, 2007. The reporters interviewed dozens of local villagers who all confirmed what had transpired. Their story was picked by the Zurich-based Center for Security Studies’ ISN and brief mention was made in The Telegraph. No mention by the Associated Press, the Washington Post, etc.

Abdul Manaan, known as Naanwai, the baker, in the hamlet, was lucky to have made it to Emergency Italia’s hospital in Lashkar Gah. He recounted that

 

he suffered slashes to his neck during a nighttime raid which locals say was carried out by a mixed force of foreign and Afghan troops helicoptered into Toube on November 18. Eyewitnesses say the soldiers killed 18 civilians in an attack that was brutal even by the standards of the Afghan conflict. Although the raid is said to have happened three weeks ago, there has been no news or comment about it outside Helmand. “It was about two in the morning when we heard the aircraft, and I woke up,” said Abdul Manaan. “I looked out but I couldn’t see anything. My two younger brothers who were in another room came to me to ask what was going on, but I told them, ‘Nothing, just go back to sleep’. They went back to bed, as did I. “Then I heard a noise on the roof, and I looked out and there were armed men up there. They climbed down and came into my brothers’ room, and asked them if they were Taliban. One of my brothers said ‘No, we are shopkeepers, come and search the house. We have nothing, no guns or anything’. The soldiers shot him on the spot. My other brother they brought to me, and tied his hands. Then they slit his throat. I could hear him gurgling. He was still making a noise when they got to me.
“One of the soldiers spoke a little Pashto - he asked whether we were Taliban and I said no, we were shopkeepers. They made me stand up against the wall and tied my hands. They put the knife to my neck and cut me three times. Then they threw an old tarpaulin over me and left. “But I wasn’t dead.” As Abdul Manaan lay under the tarpaulin holding his hand to his neck wound, he heard the soldiers moving around the house and children screaming. When the soldiers left after about half an hour, he said, “I got up and went to my brother. He was cold.”  He found the women and children alive in another room, together with some who had come from other houses. “Everyone was screaming and crying,” he said. In the morning, Abdul Manaan was taken to hospital in Lashkar Gah. “I survived, but my brothers are dead,” he said. “What shall I do now?”

 

Other residents echoed Abdul Manaan’s account: soldiers broke down doors, shot persons including children, and slit people’s throats. A man named Nabi Jan said,

 

At two in the morning on Sunday, foreign troops entered my house and shot my children in their cradles. I collected their scattered brains with my own hands and placed them near the bodies. “They killed 18 people that night. I swear none of them were Taliban fighters,” he said, his anger making his voice rise in tone. “They killed civilians - people like me - with rough farmers’ hands. If you don’t believe me, then come with me to the cemetery. I will dig up the bodies to show you.” According to Nabi Jan, the soldiers left at about five in the morning, when it was still dark. He and what is left of his family are now camped out by the river, in the winter cold, afraid to go home. 

A neighbor, Borjan, waiting at Emergency’s hospital added 

“I was a witness,” he said. “Soldiers came into our houses. They shot everyone they could find, including people asleep in bed. In one house, babies were shot in their cradles. Three people had their throats cut, but one survived, and he is now in this hospital.” According to Borjan, the death toll was 17.

 

“Two of my cousins were killed in this attack,” said another man waiting outside the hospital, Noor Mohammad. “It was nighttime and we heard aircraft. Soldiers came to our house. We hid and did not open the door, so they broke it down. When they entered the house, they began firing, and they killed four people. They were foreign and Afghan army troops. When they left, they gunned down anyone they could find.

Two days later. A group of one hundred village elders from the area went to the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, demanding that all foreign forces stay out of Garmsir district. A delegation member, Khan Agha, said 

We hate the government and NATO because they kill our women and elders…They won’t let us get on with our lives; they slaughter us…It is bad enough that foreigners do these things, but now the Afghan Army is with them. We are angry that even Afghans show us no sympathy. I used to cooperate with the army, but now, if I had the opportunity, I will do my best to hurt them.

 

One after another, the elders from Toube told their stories, all very similar. “My name is Hajji Ali Mohammad,” said one old man, who was so hunched over that he could barely walk. Tears ran down his face as he spoke. “It was during the night that armed men entered my house and shot two of my sons. One of them had just got married a month ago. My sons were not members of the Taliban, they were farmers. We are poor farmers.”

What did the US/NATO militaries report? Well, they attempted the tried tactic of saying Taliban were killed in an article headlined, “US, Afghan Forces Kill 43 Taliban Fighters in Southern Afghanistan.” The US propaganda journal, Voice of America News, wrote on November 17th that 

The U.S. military says its coalition forces killed 23 Taliban fighters and detained 11 suspects during an operation in southern Helmand province. In a statement Saturday, the military said the fighting erupted while coalition troops conducted a weapons search in Garmser district, which lies along a route for smuggling weapons from Pakistan.

 

But what was the mainstream western press focusing upon on November 19-20, 2007 in Afghanistan when 100 elders gathered in the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah? A glance at Yahoo!News shows that apparently more relevant topics were (for hotel journalists): after-effects of suicide bombs; wasted aid; NATO troop deployment; Afghan boy belly dancers; and the AP reports on Bill O’Reilly’s visit to Afghanistan.

To which need be added the Associated Press mentioning amongst others,

·        O’Reilly Visits Troops in Afghanistan
Associated Press Online, November 20, 2007 Tuesday 12:29 AM

·        Recent clashes with Taliban in Afghanistan leave at least 68 dead  Associated Press, November 19, 2007

 

The latter article by Noor Khan of the A.P. goes on at length about how the bodies of five abducted Afghan policemen in Uruzgan were recovered who had been hung by the Taliban. These are the good bodies which get reported about in the western mainstream press whereas silence reigns on those massacred by US/NATO forces at Lakari (bad bodies unworthy of mention).

Finally in May 2008, the truth emerged when the UN’s special investigator for its Human Rights Council, Philip Alston, quoted points made in his forthcoming report and mentioned a secret U.S. Special Forces unit based at Firebase Maholic (formerly Camp Gecko) just outside Kandahar. He said this unit had carried out a botched raid in Helmand in which a civilian’s throat was slit. He also stated that such Special Forces units had killed about 200 Afghan civilians during just 2008.

  

Massacred in a midnight raid by US Special Forces (based at infamous Camp Gecko in Kandahar) and their Afghan trainees