| Ander Nieuws week 40 / nieuwe oorlog 2007 |
Protest follows killing of two clerics
Globe and Mail
September 27, 2007
By Graeme Smith
The death of two Afghan clerics in an overnight raid has ignited an unusual protest against foreign troops and sharply increased the volatility of a district that is critical to Canadian success in southern Afghanistan.
Shouts of "Death to Canada!" were heard among the clamour yesterday on the main highway west of Kandahar city, as an estimated 300 to 400 protesters voiced their anger against the violent searches of local homes.
Neither the Canadians nor other NATO soldiers were involved in the raids, a military spokeswoman said; the only other foreign troops operating in the area belong to U.S. Operation Enduring Freedom, a counterterrorism force.
Local elders held meetings last night to discuss the uproar.
Many of them said they now understand the Canadians were not to blame for the killings, but they predicted that Canadian soldiers will bear the consequences because they're the most powerful force in Zhari district, and most ordinary people can't distinguish between Canadian and American troops.
Haji Sadullah Khan, 40, a grape trader, was among the first people who found the bodies of the religious teachers lying in their blood-spattered bedrooms. Mullah Janan, about 28 years old, had been shot in the mouth and chest; Mullah Habibullah, a few years younger, had bullet wounds in his torso.
No weapons were visible in their home, Mr. Khan said, and the two mullahs had a reputation as peaceful men who taught children at small mosques in the district. Like several other people interviewed in the neighbourhood, Mr. Khan was incensed by an announcement on local television that the raid had targeted mullahs who served as judges in illegal Taliban courts.
The slain men belonged to the Alizai tribe, a group disenfranchised from the government, and their deaths happened in a Kandahar suburb known as Senjaray, south of Highway 1, a ramshackle warren of mud huts that is notorious for hiding Taliban. Insurgents were spotted among the protesters yesterday, and elders say it took some effort to dissuade the mob from marching into Kandahar city.
These events will make the district more dangerous, Mr. Khan said, though the people remain divided.
"There are two opinions now," he said. "If the foreigners behave like they did last night, they are not good for us, and we will fight them.
"If they do good actions, build schools and roads, they are okay, and they should stay in Afghanistan."
He continued: "If they leave, the Taliban will take over, and we don't want that either. So we don't know what to say."
House raids are always unpopular in southern Afghanistan, where violating the privacy of a home is considered a more serious affront than it is under Western traditions. Foreign troops have repeatedly targeted Senjaray for such sweeps. Villagers say the previous raid happened a week ago, when nine men were rounded up and taken to a special forces base in Kandahar city.
The latest raid started in the middle of the night as armoured vehicles drove into Senjaray with their headlights off, residents say.
Soldiers broke through the small wooden door of the mullahs' modest mud-walled house, and neighbours soon heard gunshots, and the screams of women and children.
The wife of one of the slain mullahs later told her neighbours that her husband seemed to know one of the soldiers' translators, and they exchanged some words before he was killed.
"The woman told us that the brothers were speaking with the soldiers before they were shot," said Haji Shaista Gul, 48, a wealthy farmer who owns roughly 10 hectares of farmland in the area. "The mullah said to a translator, 'You are an ordinary man, I know you, you know me.' And after these words, they shot him."
After the shooting, the foreign soldiers searched two more homes and left the village, residents say. Nobody ventured into the mullahs' house to see what happened until daybreak, when a crowd gathered to investigate the wailing inside.
Their wives and children are now destitute, the neighbours said, because the mullahs had few assets and survived only on zakat, the money paid by worshippers to the mosque.
Their bodies were taken to a mosque and buried near the highway around mid-morning. The funeral drew a crowd, which lingered and later blocked the road for hours. An unidentified man with a megaphone rallied them in protest as they chanted slogans against the foreign troops.
"This is the biggest protest we have had in years," said Hyat Ullah, 21, the son of local parliamentarian Habibullah Jan. "We ask the foreign forces to be very careful, to avoid getting into personal fights between people. These things make big problems."
© Copyright 2007 CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc.
| Ander Nieuws week 40 / nieuwe oorlog 2007 |