News ID: 258989
Published: 1029 GMT September 20, 2019

US bombing ‘suggests shocking disregard for civilian life’: Amnesty

US bombing ‘suggests shocking disregard for civilian life’: Amnesty

US drone strike kills dozens of Afghan farmers

International Desk


Amnesty International said on Thursday a recent deadly US drone attack in Afghanistan "suggests a shocking disregard for civilian life".

The Amnesty International’s reaction came after a US drone attack killed 30 pine nut farmers and wounded at least 40 others in Afghanistan Wednesday night, the latest mass killing of innocent civilians by American forces as the so-called "war on terror" enters its 19th year.

Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry and a senior US official in the Afghan capital, Kabul, confirmed the drone strike, but did not disclose details of the civilian casualties.

The farmers had just finished work and were sitting by a fire when the strike happened, according to tribal elder Malik Rahat Gul.

"Some of us managed to escape, some were injured, but many were killed," said farm laborer Juma Gul.

Also a Reuters report indicates that there may be more farmers missing.

The owner of the pine nut field has reportedly said about 150 workers were there for harvesting at the time.

A survivor of the attack said some 200 laborers were sleeping in five tents pitched near the farm when the bombing hit.

In a statement, Colonel Sonny Leggett, the spokesman for the US war in Afghanistan, said the attack was aimed at "Daesh (ISIL) terrorists in Nangarhar" Province.

"We are aware of allegations of the death of non-combatants and are working with local officials to determine the facts," said Leggett.

However, Leggett said, the blame for the massacre was on ISIL and the Taliban—not American forces.

"We are fighting in a complex environment against those who intentionally kill and hide behind civilians, as well as use dishonest claims of noncombatant casualties as propaganda weapons," Leggett said.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Friday promised to introduce measures to prevent civilian fatalities in America’s war in the ravaged country.

Ghani said new steps to protect civilians were being implemented and that he has introduced several “checks and balances” to stop night raids and attacks leading to loss of innocent lives, Reuters reported.

He made these assurances while addressing an election rally in Jalalabad, the capital city of Nangarhar Province.


‘Unacceptable strike’


Meantime, Human rights group Amnesty International, in a statement, said that the strike was "unacceptable and suggests a shocking disregard for civilian life."

"US forces in Afghanistan must ensure that all possible precautions are taken to avoid civilian casualties in military operations," said Amnesty.

In a tweet, journalist Emran Feroz said his reporting from the region indicates that the reality of US policy with respect to attacks in Nangarhar is different than Leggett's claims.

"[It] seems that recent drone strikes in Nangarhar's Khogyani district ended in a total massacre, killing far more than 30 civilians," said Feroz. "When I visited Khogyani in 2017, locals told us that drone strikes against farmers and other civilians are taking place regularly."

Rita Siemion, the director of National Security Advocacy at Human Rights First, told Common Dreams that the US military cannot knowingly continue to use a process that repeatedly kills civilians by mistake.

"Mistakes can happen, but this strike is part of a pattern that suggests that there are serious flaws in the Pentagon's targeting processes that need to be addressed," said Siemion. "Knowingly using a process that fails to adequately distinguish between civilians and combatants would violate the laws of war and be detrimental to the overall mission."

In a tweet, The Intercept's Mehdi Hasan noted just how little attention the massacre perpetrated by the US military was likely to receive.

MSNBC host Chris Hayes tweeted Thursday that Americans should pay attention to the attack and try to put themselves in Afghan shoes.

"It is so easy to read this and be upset or shake your head and still see it as an abstraction," said Hayes. "But take a second to play through a missile from, say, Iran landing in Iowa and killing 30 farmers and what that would do to domestic politics."

According to the UN, at least 3,812 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first half of 2019 in the US war in Afghanistan, with a big increase in the number of casualties caused by foreign forces.

Airstrikes killed 363 people and injured 156 others, and of those casualties 150 were children, according to the UN report. Of those 519 casualties, just over four of every five were caused by US-led forces.

The American-led coalition, under the pretext of fighting terror in Afghanistan, continues to conduct airstrikes against the Taliban and other militants.

The coalition launched the war in 2001. Some 18 years on, the Taliban have only boosted their forces across the country.


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