Thursday, June 01, 2006

A Week of Terror in Iraq & Afghanistan

This week in Iraq has seen further troubles for the new Iraqi government as well as the coalition. On Saturday a US helicopter crashed in Anbar province and two US marines were declared missing [BBC]. The Cobra AH-1 was said to be on a ‘maintenance test flight’ when the crash occurred. On Sunday a report emerged which indicated that 1,000 British troops had deserted since the initiation of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003 [BBC]. A new law which would forbid a soldier's refusal to participate in the occupation of a foreign country is currently been debated in the British Parliament. Sunday also saw the deaths of two more British troops by a roadside bomb, two others were injured [BBC]. The Ministry of Defence said two members of the Queen's Dragoon Guards were killed in Basra at 1830 BST. It brings the May total to 9 and the total since March 2003 to 113. Violence continued into Monday with at least 6 bombings in Baghdad. Two journalists, one US troop and dozens of Iraqi civilians were killed. Paul Douglas, 48, and James Brolan, 42, who both lived in London, had been working for American network CBS news. Their deaths bring to 71 the number of journalists killed in Iraq [BBC / BBC]. The US death toll rose to 2,466. There are no official figures of civilian deaths, but puts the number at 38,059. Further troubles emerged for the coalition as more details surrounding the ‘Haditha incident’ were published. Charges of murder and dereliction of duty may come as soon as June the US Military has said. But the shocking facts may well be another flame to the already enflamed situation in Iraq. Only a week ago George Bush said he regretted the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, and that “we’ve being paying the price for a long time after that”. Allegations of an apparent massacre of unarmed civilians will do little to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of an already angry and volatile population. The new Iraqi PM said he wants to see a swift investigation. There are already accusations of cover-ups as the US military dismissed early reports and failed to investigate. The events are a little unclear but CNN reported that on the November morning in question, a US soldier from Kilo company was killed at 07:15 [local time]. His company then opened fire on a taxi, after, it is claimed, they would not ‘cooperate’. The taxi driver and 4 teenagers were killed. The troops then moved onto a house killing 7 including a woman and child, and in another property a further 8 were killed including 6 women. In another house another 4 men were killed. Speaking on CNN, John Murtha, a US House Democrat, insisted there was a cover-up and said it was, “As bad as Abu Ghraib, if not worse” [BBC]. On the ground the bombs continued to explode. In Baghdad 22 were killed in a market place and over 100 injured and another bomb in a bakery killed 9, injuring 10. South of Baghdad in Hilla 12 were killed and 32 injured in another blast. CNN also reported further US troop deployments as up to 1,500 troops were moved into Anbar province in order to help quell the rising insurgency. By Wednesday the increased violence in the south prompted Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki to declare a month-long ‘state of emergency’ in Basra to arrest the city's slide into chaos. The city has seen the deaths of 100 Iraqis since the beginning of May [BBC]. There was further criticism for US troops Thursday when they fired on a car killing a pregnant woman in labour and on her way to hospital [BBC].

In Afghanistan a military vehicle crash triggered a riot which continued for several hours. Hundreds of Afghanis took part in stoning a US convoy after a military vehicle crashed into civilian vehicles in the centre of Kabul, the country’s capital. Col Thomas Collins, a coalition spokeman said “we will carry out an investigation and cooperate with Afghan authorities”. But anger was evident on the streets as one resident insisted that “Americans killed many civilians”. The official figure has been put at one Afghan citizen dead. The Afghani government said it was the worst day of violence since the Taleban fled in 2001. President Hamid Karzai said, “Those who committed the crimes today will be investigated and we will seriously prosecute them, Afghanis will never tolerate the violence of its internal enemy” [translation – CNNi]. The riots are a significant turn in events in the country. Jason Burke, a journalist and writer, was more positive and said the “impressive pictures” of the riot should be taken in context to the size of the city. But he did raise issue with the length of time it was taking to complete the mission. The BBC reported a slightly different view suggesting the Taleban was returning with a vengeance.
On the other side of the world the Pakastani interior minister announced the imminent release of some detainees from Guantanamo bay [BBC]. Aftab Khan Sherpao, has said that the US had agreed to release eight Pakistani nationals detained at Guantanamo Bay. He told state television that a total of 29 Pakistanis were being held in the Cuban detention centre and that he would press for further releases. Posted by Picasa

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