It appears as though NATO has taken its revenge on the Italian NGO Emergency, headed by Nobel Peace Prize nominee Gino Strada. During the recent showcase attack in Helmand, Operation Moshtarak, the NGO was unsparing in its criticism of the foreign forces:
Emergency Press Release
FEBRUARY 14, 2010 – Since yesterday, the Surgical Centre run by the Italian Ngo EMERGENCY in Lashkar-gah, in southern Afghanistan, has been anticipating the arrival of victims of the bombings carried out by Anglo-American forces, that for two days now have been targeting the village of Marjah, located about 50 km southwest of the capital of Helmand province.
Our staff has been notified that dozens of seriously injured civilian victims are unable to be transferred to hospitals due to military blockades which are impeding vehicles transporting injured victims. As of this morning, six victims died because their evacuation was hindered…
EMERGENCY denounces these severe war crimes perpetrated by the international coalition of forces led by the United States, and calls for a humanitarian route be opened in order to guarantee immediate assistance to the wounded. (link)
Fortunately for NATO, the NGO’s condemnation was completely ignored by elite media. I can find no mainstream coverage of this item, which was however publicized by Democracy Now!
NATO officials no doubt hope to demonstrate that you can’t call them war criminals and get away with it:
Italians held over alleged plot to kill Afghan governor
APRIL 11 (AP) – Three Italian medical workers are among nine people who were detained over an alleged plot to kill an Afghan provincial governor, officials said.
The nine were held after suicide bomb vests, hand grenades, pistols and explosives were discovered in a hospital storeroom in Lashkar Gah, capital of the southern province of Helmand, a spokesman for the provincial government said. Police had been tipped off about a plot to kill Helmand’s governor during a future visit to the hospital, the spokesman said.
A video of the raid shows British troops accompanying Afghan police, soldiers and government officials to the hospital, which is run by the private Italian group Emergency. In a storeroom, boxes are opened containing what appear to be bullets, pistols, hand grenades, and bags of explosives… (link)
Reuters has more:
“They want to get rid of a troublesome witness. Someone has organised this set-up because they want Emergency to leave Afghanistan,” the head of Emergency, Gino Strada, told reporters.
He accused the government of President Hamid Karzai of effectively “kidnapping” the charity’s employees — a doctor, a nurse and a logistics worker — with the backing of NATO forces fighting the Taliban in the province…
A spokesman for the NATO-led international force said on Saturday no NATO troops were involved in the arrest, but Strada said video footage of the arrest showed NATO soldiers were at the hospital.
“Emergency shows the results of the so-called war on terrorism … 40 percent of the wounded are children under the age of 14. We had asked for a humanitarian corridor to evacuate the wounded, but they put up a security cordon that does not let them reach hospitals,” Strada said.
“Until recently we managed to treat the wounded because international conventions were respected … Today this is no longer possible,” he said… (link)
And in typical police state style, the cops say they already have confessions:
Italians ‘confess’ to murder plot in Afghanistan
APRIL 11 – Three Italian aid workers seized by Afghan police in Helmand have confessed to their part in a plot to assassinate the provincial governor, Afghan officials claimed today…
“We still have not been able to reach them by phone,” [an Emergency] statement said. “The only contact we have been able to make has been through one of the employee’s cell phones answered by someone who identified himself as a British military official. This person notified us that the Italians were well, but unavailable to speak at the time.”
The Italian ambassador has flown to Lashkar Gar in an attempt to see the accused Italians…
Military officials insisted that Nato forces were not involved in the raid. Britain’s Special Forces and the Secret Intelligence Service based in Helmand are not part of the Nato mission but they work alongside Afghan forces in Helmand… (link)
You can see the video of the raid here. It shows British troops and Afghan officials entering the Emergency clinic and shows the armaments allegedly found in the clinic. Notice that the Afghan police and others who are collecting the evidence make no attempt to keep their fingerprints off the weapons. It appears as though British forces were watching this, yet they obviously did not intervene to stop this egregious mishandling of evidence.
CNN has this odd assertion:
Authorities said the suspects had taken $500,000 from the Pakistan Taliban to launch their attack in a crowded location when Gov. Gulab Mangal was present. … (link)
However, the New York Times says the Afghan authorities accuse the Emergency staff of being in league with the Taliban’s Quetta shura, which is separate from the Pakistani Taliban.
Tom Coghlan of the Times adds some interesting background:
[I]n 2007 darker accusations were made by the Government, which accused employees of the Emergency hospital of a role in the kidnap of an Italian journalist, Daniel Mastrogiacomo, and two Afghan colleagues by the Taleban.
The Italian was freed after the release of a number of Taleban prisoners. The Afghans were beheaded.
Afghan officials say that Italian government pressure stopped further investigation of the hospital’s alleged role in the kidnap. As one senior government official said in Kabul yesterday: “There has been suspicion for some time of Emergency.” … (link)
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