American special forces have raided the home of a prominent Afghan
woman MP, killing one of her relatives in an operation that provoked
public protests yesterday.
The incident occurred as a Pentagon report suggested that there was
tenuous support for the Western-backed Afghan Government in a majority
of the country’s most strategically important districts.
Safia Sidiqi, an MP in the eastern province of Nangahar, was not at
home when Afghan and foreign forces raided her property on Wednesday
night and abused her family, she said. Speaking from the funeral by
phone, she told The Times that her niece’s husband, who lived
in a neighbouring home, was killed after seizing a shotgun to confront
what he thought were robbers entering his property.
A popular backlash against night-time property searches and claims
that civilians have been mistakenly killed in such raids forced General
Stanley McChrystal, the Nato commander, publicly to order last month
that they be limited to actions of “last resort”, although he refused
requests from President Karzai to ban them outright.
Scores of local people paraded the body of the dead man along a main
road through the province yesterday chanting: “Death to America”.
Nato said after the attack that an armed individual was killed after
ignoring demands, made through an Afghan interpreter, to lower his
weapon. The statement said that the joint Afghan-US operation was
targeting “a Taleban facilitator”. It did not mention the MP.
“The Americans went to my house. It was not a mistake, they knew it
was my house. They killed my relative,” Ms Sidiqi said. “There were
more than 100 soldiers and they completely destroyed my home and my
neighbour’s home. These actions are creating the distance that exists
between the Afghan Government and the people.” The dead man left five
children. “The Americans have created five more enemies,” she added.
Ms Sidiqi said that US forces were being fed false intelligence by
local spies. “Most of the spies work with the Americans, hate America
and try to give a bad name to the Americans in order to make the Afghan
people hate them,” she said.
US commanders maintain that the raids are a legitimate military tool
that is steadily eroding Taleban leadership structures. Colonel Abdul
Ghafur, a spokesman for the Afghan police in Nangahar, said that a
police investigation had been launched into the incident. “We can’t say
whether the man killed was an insurgent or not,” he said.
The latest public relations trial for Nato came as a detailed report
released by the Pentagon suggested that there have been some military
gains by Western forces against the Taleban but that the Afghan
Government enjoys tenuous support in key areas of the country.
• Embattled French troops mistakenly killed four Afghan civilians
and seriously wounded one during a clash with insurgents in the Tagab
Valley, east of Kabul.