Thursday, October 17, 2013


October 17, 2013 Rory Callinan Investigative journalist 

Australian Special Forces. Suspect: Australian Special Forces. Photo: Corporal Raymond Vance
Australian Special Forces are suspected of causing the deaths of a young boy and his father in a night raid in Afghanistan last month.
The two Afghans were found dead under a bullet-riddled blanket in a house next to where the raid took place in the district of Bulagh to the west of Tarin Kowt, the capital of the central province of Oruzgan on September 27.
A Defence Department spokesman said the Afghan government and International Security Assistance Force headquarters had been informed of the incident but he declined to comment further due to the ongoing investigation. Locals allege the father and son died when Australian soldiers fired down through a roof into the civilians' home next to the property where an insurgent was hiding.
The incident is the third this year where juveniles have been injured or killed during the partnered raids - tactics that have been heavily criticised by Afghans. The latest killings occurred about 8pm, and during the raid neighbours heard shouts that someone had been shot. When they went into the house after the Australian soldiers had left they found the two bodies.
The six-year-old boy had what appeared to be a syringe stuck in his chest as if someone had tried to provide medical care. The boy's body was lying on the chest of his father who appeared to have suffered severe gunshot wounds to his head, local sources told Fairfax. Australian forces were reported to have paid compensation, but relatives are furious.
Despite the draw-down of regular Australian troops, civilian casualties continue to mount in the province as Australian special forces and paramilitary Afghan police continue to conduct the controversial partnered patrols.
Earlier this year Fairfax revealed how a father was gunned down in front of his daughter, who was also shot in the arm as they rode on a motorbike near a partnered Australian Afghan operation in Oruzgan.
The Defence Department's excuse for the shooting was that the father had been operating the motorcycle in a manner consistent with an insurgent.
Questions have also been raised about another incident in June when a man alleged to be a civilian and working in a field was shot dead in a raid involving partnered Australian and Afghan forces near Tarin Kowt.
And on February 28, two boys were killed after a special forces patrol in north-west Afghanistan. Australian troops were not thought to have fired the fatal shots.
A Senate estimates brief about operations in Afghanistan for the period from 2008 to May 17, 2013 reveals 17 incidents had occurred, resulting in allegations of death or injury to Afghan civilians. The brief did not spell out how many civilians had died in the same period.
However, it revealed that three inquiries into five incidents remained ''open'' and that $178,267 had been spent on ''non-liability'' compensation payments.
In 2011 Australian troops were involved in another incident where a toddler was killed after he and his father were shot as they rode a motorcycle near where an operation was taking place.
Late on Wednesday Farid Hayel, a spokesman for Uruzgan police chief Matiullah Khan, said the dead man had been a member of the Taliban and would have been using the boy as a shield. Mr Hayel said the operation was aimed at arresting a deputy commander of the Taliban. He declined to give further information because it was a public holiday in Afghanistan.
Do you know more? rcallinan@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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