UK Murderers get off scott free

  • From: "Muslim News" <editor@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 20 Feb 2002 15:49:52 -0000

BRITISH troops who shot at a taxi taking a woman in labour to hospital
were not being targeted by gunmen before they opened fire, according to
Afghan authorities investigating the incident. In a move which local
police say has undermined confidence in the international peacekeeping
force, one man was killed and four others, including the pregnant woman,
were wounded when members of The Parachute Regiment fired on the
vehicle. They had reported returning fire after gunmen had shot at their
observation post in the west of Kabul. 

However, in a report which flatly contradicts the soldiers' version of
events, the district police chief says that the paratroopers were not
under fire, and had shot at the vehicle after seeing its lights during
the city's nightly curfew. 

Colonel Zemary Fazli said that some of his own men had been stationed in
the same building as the six British paratroopers, members of the
International Security Assistance Force (Isaf), and had heard nothing
before the peacekeepers began shooting at the taxi. Furthermore, he had
been patrolling the same neighbourhood, and heard nothing either. 

"I am absolutely certain that the only shooting had been from the Isaf
position," Colonel Fazli said. "My investigation into this matter is now
completed, and my conclusion is that the Isaf soldiers opened fire on
the taxi when the driver switched his lights on during the curfew. They
made no attempt to find out what was going on." 

Colonel Fazli's written report, which has been seen by The Times,
concludes that there was no good reason for the paratroopers to open
fire. "It is very unfortunate — the people in this district have now
lost faith in Isaf," he said. 

Two of the soldiers had already been flown to the UK yesterday, and
police in Kabul say that other British peacekeepers appeared to have
been withdrawn from the area and replaced by Finnish troops. Yesterday
the band of the Royal Gurkha Rifles took to the streets of Kabul to
raise morale. Children lined the street listening raptly to their pipes.

An investigation into the incident is also being carried out by the
Royal Military Police. 

That inquiry is expected to take some weeks to complete. 

Colonel Fazli said that the British troops could, in theory, face
prosecution under Afghan law, but this was not likely to happen. 

The colonel said that he had eight men stationed on the ground floor of
a bakery in the Kartayi Mamurin area on the edge of the city on Friday
night, while the British peacekeepers were positioned on top of a 180ft
grain silo at the side of the building, using night-vision goggles to
observe the neighbourhood. 

In the early hours of Saturday morning, more than three hours after the
curfew came into force, Mohammad Ishaq, 25, left his house half a mile
from the bakery after his wife Sara went into labour. 

He asked his neighbour Mohammad Hashim, 35, a taxi driver, to take them
to the police post in the bakery, where they could request an escort to
take them to hospital. 

At around the same time, the corporal in command of the British troops,
men of the 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, reported that they had
heard the sound of gunfire, and also heard rounds hitting the silo. 

Shortly afterwards Sara, 22, was helped down a path leading from her
home by her family. One of the group was holding a torch, and it is
thought that the troops watching the hillside through their night vision
goggles may have mistaken the light for the muzzle flash from a rifle. 

Once Sara had climbed into the taxi, along with her husband, her
brother-in-law Hamayat Yaqobi, and her mother-in-law, the driver
switched on his lights and the vehicle came under fire. 

One of the rounds struck Hamayat Yaqobi, a 20-year-old student, in the
back of the head, killing him instantly, Sara suffered a shrapnel wound
in her neck, and was carried home, where she gave birth to a boy, around
90 minutes later. Her husband suffered a shrapnel wound in his left
hand. Sara's 40-year-old mother-in-law was hit by shrapnel or a bullet
fragment in her right shoulder, while the driver suffered a shrapnel
wound to his face. The injured were taken to hospital. The baby boy is
said to be fine. 

Opposition MPs last night demanded to know why the two soldiers had been
sent home. Paul Keetch, the Liberal Democrats' defence spokesman, said:
"All the British troops out in Kabul are acting under the same rules of
engagement and by sending the two paratroopers home, it implies that
they had acted outside the rules. This would be an unfortunate stain on
their reputation." 

Bernard Jenkin, the Shadow Defence Secretary, said: "These soldiers have
to make decisions about whether to answer fire or not and are answerable
for their decisions, but these paratroopers were doing their duty." 

Ministry of Defence sources said that there was no question of the two
soldiers being sent home "in disgrace". The investigation still had a
long way to go and they doubted whether the Afghan police could have
come to such firm conclusions so quickly. 
Source:  The Times 

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