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U.S. troops kill Afghan civilians 'chosen randomly'

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One American soldier based out of Fort Lewis in Washington state has been arrested while others are under investigation for the alleged murder of civilians in Kandahar province earlier this year. All the soldiers are with the U.S. Army's 5th Stryker Brigade, which deployed to Kandahar in July of 2009. The unit suffered a large number of casualties, which observers have seen as a catalyst for anger which resulted in the alleged outrage.

Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman reports on some of the details for NPR's All Things Considered:

We're told at least several soldiers from the Stryker Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Lewis, Washington, were involved. And here's what we know so far. I'm told that civilian deaths occurred during a patrol or it may have been on more than a single patrol. One source tells me the victims were chosen randomly, and there's no indication there was any type of enemy action - any firefight here - before the civilian deaths. ...

[T]his all came to light when a soldier approached his chain of command and told them about the civilian deaths.

Now, this soldier went back to his unit and he was beaten up by his fellow soldiers, so this suggests there may be some sort of cover-up here. Now, the soldier again went back to his chain of command, to his officers, to tell them what happened to him, and that's when other soldiers started coming forward. ... (link)

Agence France-Presse adds some details:

The soldier was beaten after telling authorities about illicit drugs and then, while recovering in hospital, recounted his comrades' alleged role in the deaths of three Afghan civilians, said two officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The soldier was "beaten within an inch of his life," one of the officials told AFP. ... (link)

This is not the first time that occupation troops in Afghanistan have been accused of the deliberate killing of civilians. Back in 2007, Polish NATO soldiers were arrested for the Nangar Khel massacre, in which eight civilians were killed. The case was still before the military court this past winter. According to the most recent publicized testimony, it appears that the unit's mid-level commanders ordered the village targeted in retaliation for perceived local support for an earlier deadly Taliban attack on a NATO patrol. Afterward, those commanders first falsely claimed that Taliban fighters were present in the village. When their underlings were not willing to go along with the fiction, those mid-level commanders blamed their commander.

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