US Launches Investigation Into Afghan Civilian Deaths

By Admin - Fri May 21, 9:18 am

KABUL : The US military has opened a criminal investigation into allegations American soldiers were involved in the unlawful deaths of up to three Afghan civilians in Kandahar province, officials said Thursday.No charges have been issued so far, but there are also allegations of illegal drug use, assault and conspiracy, the US military announced.

“United States Forces-Afghanistan has launched a criminal investigation into allegations that a small number of US soldiers were responsible for the unlawful deaths of as many as three Afghan civilians,” the statement said.

One soldier has been placed in pre-trial confinement, the military added.

The US Army initiated the investigation on May 5 after receiving “credible information” from the soldiers’ unit earlier this month.

The soldiers under investigation belong to the 2nd Infantry Division’s Fifth Stryker Brigade, which deployed to Kandahar province in the summer of 2009, a defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

The Afghan civilians were found dead at some point between January and March, the official said.

The announcement comes amid a US-led effort to push back the Taliban from its spiritual heartland in Kandahar city and surrounding villages, a pivotal operation that hinges on winning the trust of local Afghans.

Civilian casualties in the nearly nine-year conflict in Afghanistan are deeply controversial and a source of tension between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the US-led foreign military.

Karzai has urged NATO and US forces to take “serious precautions” to avoid civilian casualties.

After talks with Karzai in Washington this month, US President Barack Obama said he was “accountable” for civilian deaths in Afghanistan and stressed Washington was doing “everything we can” to prevent civilians being killed.

The United Nations has said that most civilian fatalities 2,412 in 2009 and 2,118 in 2008 were caused by Taliban attacks.

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