Archive for the ‘Civilian Casualties’ Category

Solidarity With the People of France

November 14, 2015

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US Airstrike on DWB Afghan Hospital: Mistake or War Crime?

October 6, 2015
AC-130A Hercules gunship

AC-130A Hercules gunship

A US AC-130 plane bombed a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, that was operated by Doctors Without Borders. DWB had told US military command where the hospital was, and when the attack started, staff members called the military to ask them to stop, but the aerial attack continued. Twenty two people were killed, including patients (some of whom were children) and staff. The US military initially said the attack was an error, then said they were called in by Afghan forces, and now says they are awaiting the findings of their investigation. DWB has left Kunduz and is demanding a full, independent, investigation.

Below are excerpts from an Associated Press story about the incident, and links to commentaries.

Top general in Afghanistan: US strike on hospital a mistake

Oct 6, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) — The deadly American attack on a hospital in northern Afghanistan occurred despite “rigorous” U.S. military procedures designed to avoid such mistakes, the top commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan said Tuesday.

Testifying three days after the medical clinic strike that killed at least 22 people, [Gen. John F.] Campbell said Afghan forces requested air support Saturday while engaged in combat with Taliban fighters in the city of Kunduz, communicating with U.S. special operations troops at the scene. Those U.S. forces were in contact with the AC-130 gunship that fired on the medical clinic run by Doctors Without Borders, he added.

“To be clear, the decision to provide (airstrikes) was a US decision, made within the US chain of command,” Campbell said. “The hospital was mistakenly struck. We would never intentionally target a protected medical facility.”

In his appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Campbell said he could not provide more details about what happened, including who may have failed to follow procedures for avoiding attacks on hospitals. He said he must await the outcome of multiple investigations. Campbell had disclosed on Monday that the attack had been requested by Afghan troops.

Campbell has said the airstrike, now under investigation, was requested by Afghan forces who reported being under Taliban fire. It’s unclear whether the clinic was targeted in error or whether U.S. military personnel followed procedure. They are required to verify that the target of a requested airstrike is valid before firing.

Christopher Stokes, general director of Doctors Without Borders, has said “there can be no justification for this horrible attack” and that it was critical to conduct “a full transparent independent investigation.”

[Full story]

[Incident Report from Doctors Without Borders]

[New Yorker: Five Questions About the Bombing of a Hospital in Kunduz]

[Glenn Greenwald: The Radically Changing Story of the US Airstrike on Afghan Hospital]

[UPDATE Oct 7: US alters story for fourth time in four days]

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US Airstrike kills 19 at Doctors Without Borders Afghan Hospital

October 3, 2015

Excerpts from a New York Times Story:

Airstrike Hits Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Afghanistan

By Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times, Oct 3, 2015

KABUL, Afghanistan — A US airstrike appeared to have badly damaged a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in the Afghan city of Kunduz early Saturday, killing at least 19 people, including patients and staff members, and wounding dozens.

The US military, in a statement, confirmed the 2:15 a.m. airstrike, saying that it had been targeting individuals “who were threatening the force” and that “there may have been collateral damage to a nearby medical facility.”

… Two hospital employees, an aide who was wounded in the bombing and a nurse who emerged unscathed, said that there had been no active fighting nearby and no Taliban fighters inside the hospital.

A Kunduz police spokesman, Sayed Sarwar Hussaini, insisted that Taliban fighters had entered the hospital and were using it as a firing position.

The hospital treated the wounded from all sides of the conflict, a policy that has long irked the Afghan security forces.

President Ashraf Ghani’s office released a statement Saturday evening saying that Gen. John F. Campbell, the commander of American forces in Afghanistan, had apologized for the strike.

However, a statement from the American defense secretary, Ashton Carter, while calling the strike “tragic,” stopped short of an apology. “The area has been the scene of intense fighting the last few days,” Mr. Carter said. “U.S. forces in support of Afghan Security Forces were operating nearby, as were Taliban fighters.” …

Doctors Without Borders said at least 12 members of its staff and seven patients, including three children, had been killed and 37 wounded, 19 of them hospital staff members. The group described the hospital as “very badly damaged.”

In a statement, the aid group, also known by its French name, Médecins Sans Frontières, or M.S.F., accused the American military of continuing the bombing for 30 minutes after receiving phone calls telling military contacts that the hospital was being bombed. “All parties to the conflict including in Kabul and Washington, were clearly informed of the precise location [GPS Coordinates] of the M.S.F. facilities – hospital, guesthouse, office,” the statement said.

The nurse, who asked not to be identified because he had instructions not to speak to reporters, said that two other nurses at the hospital had been killed by severe burns from the fires set off by the bombs. “Most of my colleagues died in the fire after the bombing,” he said.

Doctors Without Borders said 105 patients and caretakers had been at the hospital, along with 80 staff members. …

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the United Nations’ high commissioner for human rights, called for a full and transparent investigation. “This event is utterly tragic, inexcusable, and possibly even criminal,” Mr. al-Hussein said in a statement.

[Full story]

[Incident Report from Doctors Without Borders]

[Update: Death Toll Increased to 22; Doctors Without Borders leaves Afghan city after airstrike]

[Commentary: One Day After Warning Russia of Civilian Casualties, the US Bombs a Hospital in Afghanistan]

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Yemen War Wipes out Decades of Development

September 26, 2015

Associated Press
September 26, 2015

Buildings destroyed by Saudi airstrike

Buildings destroyed by Saudi airstrike

Yemen’s foreign minister says that less than a year of fighting in his country has wiped out decades of development, while the U.N. chief in a meeting with Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister has called for an immediate cease-fire in the Yemen conflict.

Yemeni Foreign Minister Riad Yassin told at U.N. gathering of world leaders that Houthi rebels who seized large parts of the Arab world’s poorest country have not abided by U.N. Security Council resolutions adopted earlier this year. One resolution demanded that the Houthis immediately give up control of government institutions.

A Saudi-led coalition supported by the United States has carried out months of airstrikes that have drawn sharp criticism from human rights groups, who say many civilians have been killed. Meanwhile, a coalition blockade has kept most aid from reaching a country that even before the fighting imported 90 percent of its food and fuel.

Ban Ki-moon in his meeting with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir again called for “increased humanitarian access.

Saudi Airstrike Kills 45 Yemeni Civilians

July 8, 2015

Peace Pundit has for years reported civilian casualties in Afganistan and Iraq. Unfortunately the civilian toll has recently been rising in Yemen. Below are excerpts from an AP story about a recent airstrike that killed many civilians.

Airstrike Hits Market, Killing More than 45 Civilians

Associated Press, Monday, July 6, 2015

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — A massive airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition targeting rebels in Yemen hit a local marketplace on Monday, killing more than 45 civilians, security officials and eyewitnesses said.

More than 50 civilians were wounded in the strike in Fayoush, just north of the southern port city of Aden, the officials said…

The officials … said Saudi-led airstrikes against the rebels continued across the country, with nine provinces and the capital hit.

The fighting in Yemen pits the Houthis and troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh against southern separatists, local and tribal militias, Sunni Islamic militants and loyalists of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who is now based in Saudi Arabia.

More than 3,000 people have been killed in Yemen’s conflict since March, including more than 1,400 civilians, according to U.N. agencies.

The conflict has left 20 million Yemenis without access to safe drinking water and uprooted more than one million people from their homes, the United Nations said. Last Wednesday, it declared its highest-level humanitarian emergency in the country, where over 80 percent of the population needs assistance.

[Read entire story]

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US Drone Strikes Kill More Bystanders than Terrorists

November 27, 2014

A human-rights group examined US drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, calculated the number of unintended civilian deaths for these strikes, and published a report. Many of the drone strikes did not even succeed at killing the person who was the intended target. The results are sobering and should fuel efforts to stop the drone strikes.

The following are excerpts from a recent article in The Guardian summarizing the report.

“41 men targeted but 1,147 people killed: US drone strikes – the facts on the ground”

By Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian, 24 Nov 2014

The drones came for Ayman Zawahiri on 13 January 2006, hovering over a village in Pakistan called Damadola. Ten months later, they came again for the man who would become al-Qaida’s leader, this time in Bajaur. Eight years later, Zawahiri is still alive. Seventy-six children and 29 adults, according to reports after the two strikes, are not.

…[F]ewer [Americans] are familiar with Qari Hussain. Hussain was a deputy commander of the Pakistani Taliban, a militant group aligned with al-Qaida that trained the would-be Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad, before his unsuccessful 2010 attack. The drones first came for Hussain years before, on 29 January 2008. Then they came on 23 June 2009, 15 January 2010, 2 October 2010 and 7 October 2010.

Finally, on 15 October 2010, Hellfire missiles fired from a Predator or Reaper drone killed Hussain, the Pakistani Taliban later confirmed. For the death of a man whom practically no American can name, the US killed 128 people, 13 of them children, none of whom it meant to harm.

A new analysis of the data … about drone strikes, conducted by the human-rights group Reprieve, indicates that even when operators target specific individuals – the most focused effort of what Barack Obama calls “targeted killing” – they kill vastly more people than their targets, often needing to strike multiple times. Attempts to kill 41 men resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1,147 people, as of 24 November.

“Drone strikes have been sold to the American public on the claim that they’re ‘precise’. But they are only as precise as the intelligence that feeds them. There is nothing precise about intelligence that results in the deaths of 28 unknown people, including women and children, for every ‘bad guy’ the US goes after,” said Reprieve’s Jennifer Gibson, who spearheaded the group’s study.

24 men specifically targeted in Pakistan resulted in the death of 874 people. All were reported in the press as “killed” on multiple occasions, meaning that numerous strikes were aimed at each of them. The vast majority of those strikes were unsuccessful. An estimated 142 children were killed in the course of pursuing those 24 men, only six of whom died in the course of drone strikes that killed their intended targets.

In Yemen, 17 named men were targeted multiple times. Strikes on them killed 273 people, at least seven of them children. At least four of the targets are still alive.

[Read Full Story, including charts]

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Blackwater Guards Found Guilty of Killing Iraqi Civilians in 2007

October 23, 2014

For years, PeacePundit has been following the controversy surrounding the contract security firm Blackwater Worldwide (later renamed Xe Services and then Academi) including accusations that Blackwater guards killed 17 unarmed civilians in an unprovoked attack in Iraq.

The case has been in the US courts for years, and finally has been decided: One Blackwater employee was found guilty of murder of several civilians, and three other employees were found guilty of manslaughter. All face lengthy prison sentences.

Below are excerpts from a news report of the court decision.

All 4 Blackwater Guards Found Guilty in 2007 Iraq Shootings

Three security guards working for the private US contractor Blackwater have been found guilty of the manslaughter of a group of unarmed civilians at a crowded Baghdad traffic junction in one of the darkest incidents of the Iraq war.

A fourth, Nicholas Slatten, was found guilty of one charge of first-degree murder. All face the likelihood of lengthy prison sentences …

The Nisour Square massacre in 2007 left 17 people dead and 20 seriously injured after the guards working for the US State Department fired heavy machine guns and grenade launchers from their armoured convoy in the mistaken belief they were under attack by insurgents.

But attempts to prosecute the guards have previously foundered because of a series of legal mistakes by US officials, and the case had attracted widespread attention in Iraq as a symbol of apparent American immunity.

Now, after a 10-week trial and 28 days of deliberation, a jury in Washington has found three of the men … guilty of a total of 13 charges of voluntary manslaughter and a total of 17 charges of attempted manslaughter.

The fourth defendant, Slatten, who was alleged to have been first to open fire, was found guilty of a separate charge of first-degree murder. Slough, Liberty, and Heard were found guilty of using firearms in relation to a crime of violence, a charge which can alone carry up to a 30-year mandatory sentence.

Prosecutors had claimed Slatten, the convoy’s sniper, viewed killing Iraqis as “payback for 9/11” and often “deliberately fired his weapon to draw out return fire and instigate gun battles” or tried to smash windscreens of passing cars as his convoy rolled through Baghdad.

Jeremy Ridgeway, another member of the convoy known as Raven 23, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in 2008 and agreed to testify against his colleagues in exchange for a more lenient sentence.

Prosecutors told the jury that Slatten triggered the incident by shooting the occupants of a civilian car during a traffic jam at a busy roundabout in Baghdad. As the car rolled forward, other members of the convoy of three armoured vehicles opened fire indiscriminately with heavy weapons claiming they thought they were under attack from an attempted car bombing.

Blackwater –- renamed first Xe Services and then Academi after the incident saw it thrown out of Iraq and dubbed a mercenary force by a United Nations report –- reached a civilian settlement on behalf of six of the victims in 2012 and paid an undisclosed sum in compensation.

[T]he first attempt to bring the case to trial was thrown out by a judge after it emerged that State Department investigators had promised the defendants that statements made after the attack and leaked to the media would not be used against them in court.

[V]ice-president Joe Biden promised the US would pursue a fresh prosecution … and an appeal court later ruled these errors in witness interviews did not … prevent a trial.

[Read Entire Story]

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Hawking: What’s Happening in Syria Is an Abomination

February 18, 2014

The British physicist Stephen Hawking recently published an essay calling for coordinated global action to end to the horrible civil war in Syria. Excerpts follow, with link to full article below.

“The Greek philosopher Aristotle believed that the universe had existed for ever. The reason humanity was not more developed, he believed, was that floods or other natural disasters repeatedly set civilisation back to the beginning.

Today, humans are developing ever faster. Our knowledge is growing exponentially and, with it, our technology. But humans still have the instincts, and in particular the aggressive impulses, that we had in caveman days. Aggression has had definite advantages for survival, but when modern technology meets ancient aggression the entire human race and much of the rest of life on Earth is at risk.

Today in Syria we see modern technology in the form of bombs, chemicals and other weapons being used to further so-called intelligent political ends. But it does not feel intelligent to watch as more than 100,000 people are killed or while children are targeted. It feels downright stupid, and worse, to prevent humanitarian supplies from reaching clinics where … children are having limbs amputated for lack of basic facilities, and newborn babies are dying in incubators for lack of power.

What’s happening in Syria is an abomination, one that the world is watching coldly from a distance. Where is our emotional intelligence, our sense of collective justice?

We must work together to end this war and to protect the children of Syria. The international community has watched from the sidelines for three years as this conflict rages, engulfing all hope. As a father and grandfather I watch the suffering of Syria’s children and must now say: no more.

We now know that Aristotle was wrong: the universe has not existed for ever. It began about 14bn years ago. But he was right that great disasters represent major steps backward for civilisation. The war in Syria may not represent the end of humanity, but every injustice committed is a chip in the facade of what holds us together. The universal principle of justice may not be rooted in physics but it is no less fundamental to our existence. For without it, before long, human beings will surely cease to exist.”

[Read Full Article]

US Drone Strikes Have Prominent Critics

October 22, 2013

The US program of using unmanned drone aircraft to launch missile attacks against ground targets in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen is drawing some prominent critics.

The Obama administration, which increased the use of drone-launched attacks significantly compared to the Bush adminstration, has consistently defended the use of drones as an imperfect but necessary tool in combatting terrorist organisations. For example:

Predator drone

Predator drone

People in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen have protested since the drone-attacks began. Peace activists have similarly argued against the use of offensive weaponized drones on the grounds that they cause many civilian casualties and are counterproductive. How much weight do their protests carry with the administration? We all know the answer: very little.

Now, at last, other, more well-known and well-respected people and organizations are speaking out against the use of combat drones:

  • Jimmy Carter: Jimmy Carter savages US foreign policy over drone strikes. According to the former President, drone strikes and targeted assassinations abroad have seen the US violating human rights in a way that “abets our enemies and alienates our friends”.
  • Arianna Huffington: ‘Signature Strikes’ and the President’s Empty Rhetoric on Drones. Huffington writes: “The missiles from the drones might be exploding in Pakistan and Afghanistan and Yemen, but the fallout will impact us here at home for years to come.”
  • Malala Yousafzai: Malala to Obama: “Drones Fueling Terrorism”. The 16-year-old Pakistani student whom the Taliban shot for promoting educating girls, who won Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize and the EU’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, and who was nominated for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize, recently met with President Obama. Afterwards, she told reporters: “I … expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact.”
  • Amnesty International: Amnesty criticizes US drone program in Pakistan. A report issued by the organization documents several civilian casualties of drone attacks in Pakistan and calls on the US to investigate those attacks and possibly to change its policies concerning the strikes. Amnesty expressed concern that the attacks discussed in the report and others may have resulted in extrajudicial executions or war crimes. Estimating civilian casualties is highly error prone, but Amnesty’s report estimates the number of people killed by drone-attacks in Pakistan to be 2,065-3,613, of which 153-926 were thought to be civilians.
  • Human Rights Watch: Between a Drone and Al-Qaeda. A report from Human Rights Watch says that US drone airstrikes against alleged terrorists in Yemen have killed civilians in violation of international law. The report examines six US targeted killings in Yemen. Two of the attacks killed civilians indiscriminately in clear violation of the laws of war; the others may have targeted people who were not legitimate military objectives or caused disproportionate civilian deaths. The report concludes that the strikes are creating a public backlash that undermines US efforts against Al-Qaeda. [Read HRW report] [View HRW video summarizing report]
Predator drone firing missile

Predator drone firing missile

Perhaps momentum is building for an international campaign to ban the use of combat drones, similar to the campaigns to ban land-mines and chemical weapons, which both won the Nobel Peace Prize.

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Muslims Not Spared in Nairobi Mall Attack

September 27, 2013

Al Shabab, the Somalia-based group responsible for the Sept 21 attack in Nairobi’s Westgate Mall, tweeted as its gunmen launched the attack that they were taking care not to harm Muslims. They claimed to be letting Muslims leave the mall. Their spokespeople repeated this several times over the four-day-long siege. In an email to The Associated Press, Al Shabab’s spokesperson wrote that their jihadis “carried out a meticulous vetting process” so Muslims would not be harmed. A few witnesses reported seeing some of the gunmen briefly question people before either letting them go, taking them captive, or shooting them outright.

First of all, even if the attackers had been “meticulous” about letting Muslims escape the carnage, the attack would have been no less horrific, brutal, criminal, and cowardly. Killing innocent civilians is never justifiable, regardless of who does it or why.

However, let’s set the record straight about Al Shabab’s claims of taking care not to harm Muslims: it is false propaganda, probably intended to win sympathy from Muslims around the world. The Al Shabab gunmen did not take care. They were not meticulus. They did not spare Muslims.

The following articles and video interviews document known Muslim victims of the attack. As further bodies are identified and survivors are debriefed, this list will undoubtedly grow.

Another Muslim, Abdul Haji, a Kenyan citizen, was a major hero in helping rescue people trapped in the mall during the attack. In fact, one of the most often-seen photos to emerge from the attack shows Haji rescuing a four-year old girl who had been hiding from attackers with her mother [Read Rescue Story] [View Photo]. In the following interview, Haji recounts events as he remembers them. In the interview, he states strongly that attacking innocent civilians, especially women and children, is not Islamic. [View Interview]

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