The excellent Jerome Starkey broke this story last week, about a night raid conducted on Feb. 12 by NATO and Afghan forces near the town of Gardez.
The raid was on the home of a Commander Dawood (who like many Afghans uses only one name,) a well-loved man who had worked closely with US and coalition forces in the area. That night, Dawood was hosting a baby-naming party for his grandson.
At around 3 a.m., one of the musicians at the party went outside to use the toilet, saw a group of armed men near the house and ran back inside to warn the others. Dawood went outside and was immediately shot by a man on the roof.
Dawood’s brother, a government prosecutor in the district was next to die, as he stood in the doorway shouting that he worked for the government, according to an eyewitness I spoke with today.
“He said, ‘We work for the government, we are with you.’ That was when the bullets tore into him,” Mohammad Sabhir, a relative of Dawood and the prosecutor told me. “Three women were standing behind him. When he was killed, they were too.”
One of those women was Sabhir’s wife, Bibi Shirin, who was pregnant and the mother of four children under the age of five. The other was Bibi Saleha, also pregnant. She had 11 children. The third was an 18-year-old bride to be. Her wedding was planned for this summer.
Until today, it was unclear exactly which coalition forces were involved in the raid, though the victim’s families are convinced that Americans were involved.
A senior NATO commander told me this afternoon that it was a joint operation between coalition Special Forces and Afghan Special Forces. He did not know what country the NATO unit came from, but said that 18 NATO contributors have Special Forces operators in Afghanistan.
Apparently the soldiers thought they were targeting a Taliban stronghold. They were wrong.
As if this situation could get any worse, NATO denied killing the women. A press release from their HQ, released after the raid, made it sound as if the women were dead when the soldiers got there, and had been bound and gagged before being murdered execution style. The release also stated that the soldiers had been fired upon as they approached the house.
When Starkey questioned NATO spokesman Rear Admiral Greg Smith, he gave quite possibly the dumbest quote of this war:
“If you have got an individual stepping out of a compound, and if your assault force is there, that is often the trigger to neutralise the individual. You don’t have to be fired upon to fire back.”
Correct me if I’m wrong, but in order to “fire back” don’t you first have to be “fired upon?”
But this is semantics.
Five innocent people are dead (not counting the unborn babies) and the entire province is in a rage. The victim’s families have turned down a compensation payment from the government, calling it “blood money.”
“Life means nothing to me now,” Sabhir told me. “If the government does not bring the people who did this to justice my family and I will get revenge on American convoys.”