The US military has admitted that its troops in Afghanistan went on a three mile killing spree on 4 March after one of its vehicles was hit by a suicide bomb.
At the time, the elite unit of US Marines said they had foiled a massive ambush by the Taliban in the Nangahar province, and that civilians were caught in the crossfire. One soldier was slightly injured by the bomb.
The soldiers reacted by shooting at anyone they saw as they fled the scene of the bombing. They fired on civilian cars and farmers working the fields along the highway.
Ten people were killed, among them a four year old girl, a one year old boy and three elderly villagers. Up to 33 people were wounded.
As word of the massacre spread US troops ordered journalists to delete images of the carnage and banned them from speaking to survivors.
But an investigation by an Afghan human rights organisation exposed the cover up, forcing the US military to conduct their own investigation.
It found the story of an ambush to be a complete fabrication. No ammunition casings were found along the side of the road where US troops said they had engaged Taliban fighters.
The US officer in charge concluded that, “My investigating officer believes those folks were innocent. We were unable to find evidence that those who died were fighters.”
The truth of the so-called ambush has emerged as hundreds of recently declassified documents have shed light on another spate of indiscriminate shooting following a traffic accident in the Afghan capital.
On 29 May last year a convoy of US vehicles ploughed into rush hour traffic in the capital Kabul.
Ten cars were damaged in the incident. As the drivers emerged to complain to the soldiers a large and angry crowd gathered, with some people throwing stones.
The US soldiers and their Afghan allies responded with volleys of shots killing dozens and wounding many more. The enraged crowd then rioted, and attempted to march on the presidential office.
The military subsequently said that their soldiers feared for their lives and fired warning shots over the heads of “a hostile crowd”. Despite their claims, the US military was secretly dishing out compensation of up to £1,500 to their victims.
These compensation documents, know as “claim forms”, detail the circumstances of the deaths and whether the military accept liability. They have recently been declassified and published by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
The documents prove that far from firing “warning shots” the troops shot wildly into the crowd killing bystanders, food vendors and a child returning from school.
In one claim filed on behalf of a 13 year old victim, and accepted by the US military, the boy’s father said, “My son was selling pizzas from a cart. I heard there was a traffic accident. I went to help my son put away things.
“While I was helping him a US Humvee [military vehicle] opened fire and a bullet struck my son in the nose and exited the back of his head. He died. My family is deeply saddened at his loss. He was the provider for the family.”
One of the victims describes how his car was one of the ten that were originally hit by the US truck, “After the accident my brother, father and I exited the car.
“The police arrived to stop the crowd that gathered throwing rocks. At this time the US forces opened fire on the crowd and a bullet struck my father killing him.”
Another Afghan described how his brother was killed at a bus stop, “He had dropped some people off and parked his taxi in a parking lot, then came back to the bus stop to go home and he was shot. I found his body at the hospital.”
One 20 year old describes, “walking along the road where the traffic accident occurred, then a gunner that was turning (in a turret of a vehicle) shot my cousin.”
A father describes how his son, “was on his way to get some spare parts for the mechanic shop where he works when he was shot and killed by US forces. He received three bullets. He is married with one child who is one and half years old.”
“My brother was returning home from work when he was shot by the ANA (Afghan National Army)”, said another victim. “This is what people say, he was shot by the ANA.” The US military does not admit liability for killings by their Afghan allies and refused to pay compensation.
Another describes how, “My son was coming home from school and was shot by military people.”
The documents are part of 496 cases released to the ACLU – 479 from Iraq and 17 from Afghanistan – under the freedom of information act.
For more go to www.aclu.org