US, Afghan forces killed 33 civilians in self-defense: NATO

US military personal in Lashkargah, capital of southern Helmand province, Afghanistan. (AP)
Updated 12 January 2017
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US, Afghan forces killed 33 civilians in self-defense: NATO

KABUL: NATO confirmed Thursday that US forces in Afghanistan killed 33 Afghan citizens “in self-defense” in Kunduz last year in a single incident highlighting civilian casualties, one of the most contentious issues of the 15-year campaign.
The incident on November 3 saw US and Afghan troops call for air reinforcement as they engaged with Taliban forces hiding in civilian houses in a village in the volatile northern province.
Civilian men, women and children were “likely inside the buildings from which the Taliban were firing,” the report said. Two US forces and three Afghan commandos also died in the firing.
The civilian deaths sparked outrage at the time, with victims’ relatives parading the mutilated bodies of dead children piled into open trucks through the streets of Kunduz city.
“The investigation determined, regretfully, that 33 civilians were killed and 27 others wounded,” NATO’s Afghan mission Resolute Support said in a statement.
“To defend themselves and Afghan forces, US forces returned fire in self-defense at Taliban who were using civilian houses as firing positions,” the statement added.
“Regardless of the circumstances, I deeply regret the loss of innocent lives,” said General John Nicholson, commander of US forces — Afghanistan.
The United Nations has also launched an investigation, calling any loss of civilian life “unacceptable,” with its findings due to be released by the end of this month.
The carnage underscored worsening insecurity after the Taliban in October 2016 overran Kunduz city for the second time in a year, as NATO-backed Afghan forces struggle to rein in the insurgents.
Civilian casualties caused by NATO forces have been one of the most divisive issues in the 15-year battle against the insurgents, prompting strong public and government criticism.
Errant air strikes contributed to a 42 percent jump last year in casualties caused by pro-government forces compared to last year, according to the UN.


Assad accused of ‘using urban development law to carry out ethnic cleansing’

Pro-government forces stand in the destroyed Thalateen Street in the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp on the southern outskirts of the capital Damascus on May 24, 2018, as civilians return to see their homes after the regime seized the camp and adjacent neighborhoods of Tadamun and Hajar al-Aswad earlier in the week from the Daesh group. (AFP / LOUAI BESHARA)
Updated 22 min 33 sec ago
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Assad accused of ‘using urban development law to carry out ethnic cleansing’

  • he so-called “Law 10” allows the regime to acquire previously private property in which to create zoned developments, and to compensate the owners with shares in the new projects.
  • Many of the displaced have lost the necessary paperwork, are struggling financially or may not learn of the legal requirements in time.

JEDDAH: The Assad regime in Syria was accused on Saturday of using a new law on urban development to rid the country of all political opposition.

The so-called “Law 10” allows the regime to acquire previously private property to create zoned developments, and to compensate the owners with shares in the new projects.

However property rights are in a state of confusion after a seven-year war that has created more than 5 million refugees and 6 million internally displaced people. Many of the displaced have lost the necessary paperwork, are struggling financially or not aware of the legal requirements in time.

The Assad regime is using the confusion to create a suitable environment for demographic change, Syrian opposition spokesman Yahya Al-Aridi told Arab News. 

“The regime has a two-fold goal,” he said. “First, terrorize the opposition and supporters of the Syrian revolution so that they lose the right to their properties.

“Second, there is talk of reconstruction in Syria now. This law sends out a message to investors that their interests lie with the regime. It is an attempt to tempt companies and business people to support the regime, because the regime is the only party that approves bids and gives grants and contracts. All this merely adds to the Syrians’ plight and misery.”

Al-Aridi said the attempted land grab was being resisted by European countries, especially France and Germany. “The Syrian Negotiating Committee is also exerting a very important effort so that such an evil act will not happen,” he said. 

Also on Saturday, the US warned Damascus it would take “firm action” if the regime violates a cease-fire deal, after Syrian aircraft dropped leaflets on a southern province in advance of an expected offensive.

Al-Aridi said any such offensive would be a breach of agreements between Russia and the US on de-escalation zones, and he warned the regime and Iran against “playing games” with the US. “Such threats are part of a response to the two unanswered Israeli attacks on Iran’s military positions in Syria,” he said.

“They area also meant to divert attention from the American-Israeli intent to kick Iranian militias and forces out of Syria.”

He said the regime and Iran could do nothing without Russian support. “We don’t think the Russians are willing to provide such support, or to mess with the US or Israel. Parallel to such threats, Assad is trying to make certain reconciliation agreements with what they call ‘Syrians in liberated areas.’ We believe that they cannot do anything of the sort.”