Protests sparked by US troops firing of civilian bus
Early yesterday morning US troops opened fire on a bus full of civilians passing through the Kandahar province, killing four and injuring four, the Washington Post has reported. By Philip Pilkington.
The shootings quickly sparked off protests in the outskirts of Kandahar City outside the bus station. Locals claim that US troops should have been more careful.
(Picture: US soldiers in Kandahar)
“This is a savage action; they have committed a great crime," said Bismillah Afghanmal, a member of Kandahar's provincial council speaking to the Post. "They knew that this was the public transportation way. [...] Buses always use that road."
US troops claim that they gave the bus ample warning before opening fire. Abdul Ghani, who claims to have been the man driving the bus, said in a phone call to the Washington Post that the soldiers “didn’t give me any kind of signal. They just opened fire.”
According to Ghani the bus left the depot in Kandahar City at 4.30am with fifty-eight passengers on board, beginning the seven-hour journey to Nimruz province. Half an hour into the trip, the bus encountered a US convey. Ghani claims that as the bus pulled up behind the convoy the US troops opened fire.
Shortly after a spray of bullets tore through the windshield, hitting people mainly on the passenger’s side, the volley came to a halt. US soldiers then climbed onboard without saying a word to Ghani and began applying first aid to the wounded passengers, said Ghani. Some of the wounded are in critical condition and so the death toll could rise.
In a statement released on the ISAF/NATO website, an American military spokesman confirmed that the bus was travelling behind the convoy when the US troops opened fire, but says that they fired three flares in order to warn the bus that it was driving too close.
These recent civilian casualties come after a video from 2007 was released last Monday on WikiLeaks.org. The video depicted soldiers aboard an Apache helicopter indiscriminately gunning down civilians with machine-gun fire.
Twelve people were killed, including two employees from Reuters news agency, and two children were injured. The release of this footage, which was confirmed authentic, has many people raising the question of whether US troops are being trained to kill indiscriminately. (The video can be viewed here.)
In an interview with TruthOut.org Jason Washburn, a veteran who spent three years serving in Iraq, gave a disturbing account of US troop tactics when dealing with civilian deaths.
“During the course of my three tours, the rules of engagement changed a lot,” said Washburn. “The higher the threat the more viciously we were permitted and expected to respond. Something else we were encouraged to do, almost with a wink and nudge, was to carry ‘drop weapons’, or by my third tour, ‘drop shovels’. We would carry these weapons or shovels with us because if we accidentally shot a civilian, we could just toss the weapon on the body, and make them look like an insurgent.”
Also speaking to TruthOut.com Vincent Emmanualle, a Marine rifleman, gave an account which seems an eerie premonition of the recent bus shootings. “An act that took place quite often in Iraq was taking pot shots at cars that drove by,” he said. “This was not an isolated incident, and it took place for most of our eight-month deployment.” (For more soldiers’ accounts see here.)