Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Pakistan air force ‘killed scores of villagers’

Witnesses refute military claims that jet fighters fired on Islamist militants

By Riaz Khan and Zarar Khan in Peshawar, The Independent/UK, April 14, 2010

Dilla Baz Khan was pulling a woman from the rubble of an air raid when Pakistani jets screamed back into the valley for a second bombing run, killing scores of people in a village which locals say had been supportive of army offensives against militants along the Afghan border.

Mr Khan and other survivors said yesterday at least 68 villagers were killed in the weekend air strikes, sharply contradicting initial army accounts that the dead were Islamist militants. A local administration official said $125,000 (£81,000) had been paid in compensation to victims. The official declined to confirm how many of the dead were civilians but said Shafiullah Khan, the top official in Khyber, apologised to local tribesman and admitted the victims were “mostly” innocent villagers.

The accounts point to one of the most serious incidents of civilian casualties inflicted by Pakistan’s military in the border region in recent years. The carnage is likely to damage efforts to get the backing of local tribesman for offensives against insurgents behind bombings in Pakistan, as well as attacks on international troops in Afghanistan.

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