April 5th, 2010
09:16 AM ET

New inquiry ordered in killing of Afghan civilians during raid

[UPDATE: 1:49 p.m. ET]: From Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr:

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan has ordered a second investigation into the deaths of three Afghan women and two men during a botched nighttime raid in February, after Afghan investigators said they found evidence of possible tampering with evidence at the compound where the Afghans were killed.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who oversees all U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, ordered the review after receiving a briefing from Afghan officials in late March, according to Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, a NATO military spokesman.

The Afghan officials from the Ministry of Interior told McChrystal they visited the compound some time after the incident and found evidence of bloodstained walls being washed down and bullets being dug out of walls, according to two U.S. military officials. McChrystal wants a thorough review now to see why U.S. and Afghan accounts differ so greatly, according to one of the sources, a senior US official familiar with the briefing.

The official said the by the time the Afghan investigators got to the compound the people who lived there may have been attempting to clean it up. NATO officials believe the U.S. and Afghan troops may have dug some bullets out of the wall for purposes of the initial investigation, a common practice, the official said.

In March, ISAF released a statement denying a report by a British paper that NATO had “covered up” the troops involvement in the incident. U.S. officials continue to deny there was a “cover up” of U.S. involvement but the senior U.S. official who spoke to CNN Monday said there needs to more investigation into why the U.S. and Afghan accounts differ.

"We have no evidence to date anything improper was done," according the senior US official.

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) – NATO acknowledged Sunday that its troops killed five Afghans in a botched nighttime raid in February - after initially saying the civilians may have been victims of an "honor killing."

Even though civilian casualties at the hands of NATO troops have fallen off in recent months, such incidents have strained relationship between Afghanistan and the Western nations that make up the International Security Assistance Force.

At the time of the February 12 incident, NATO said its troops went to a compound in the village of Khatabeh in the Paktia province, believing it to be a militant hideout.

A firefight ensued and several insurgents died, NATO said at the time.

When soldiers entered the compound, they found the bodies of two men and two women who had been shot "execution-style," a senior U.S. military official said then.

"It has the earmarks of a traditional honor killing," the official said, adding that the women were found bound and gagged.

An honor killing is a murder carried out by a family or community member against someone thought to have brought dishonor to them.

The U.S official said at the time it wasn't clear whether dishonor in the case stemmed from accusations of acts such as adultery or even cooperation with NATO forces.

But on Sunday, NATO made an about-face from its earlier claims.

"International forces were responsible for the deaths of three women who were in the same compound where two men were killed by the joint Afghan-international patrol searching for a Taliban insurgent," it said in a statement. There was no explanation given of the third woman's death.

The two armed men that troops killed were not insurgents, NATO said.

"The force went to the compound based on reliable information in search of a Taliban insurgent and believed that the two men posed a threat to their personal safety," it said. "We now understand that the men killed were only trying to protect their families."

NATO said a lack of forensic evidence made it difficult for it to conclusively determine how or when the three women died. But it concluded they were killed when troops fired at the men.

As for the initial report about the women being found bound and gagged, the NATO statement said it stemmed from a cultural misunderstanding.

"The statement noted the women had been bound and gagged, but this information was taken from an initial report by the international members of the joint force who were not familiar with Islamic burial customs," the statement said, without elaborating.

NATO troops who went to the scene after the raid may have misinterpreted burial rites. Muslims wrap their dead in clean white cloth before they are laid in the ground.

NATO said it will apologize to the victims' family members and offer compensation in accordance with local customs.

The NATO admission follows the fatal shooting of five Afghan soldiers by troops in a friendly fire incident in northern Afghanistan on Friday. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has strongly criticized civilian deaths by international troops, and the deaths have bred resentment among many Afghans.

The numbers have fallen off in recent months since Gen. Stanley McChrystal took over as U.S. commander in Afghanistan.

"It is better to miss a target than to cause civilian casualties," he said in December. "We can always target enemy leaders later. We can't make up for the fact that we killed civilians."

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Filed under: Taliban • Troops
soundoff (50 Responses)
  1. avaddejuple

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    May 2, 2010 at 7:47 am | Report abuse |
  2. nikk

    What is this?, an apolgize and 2000 $ for one dead person.
    Would you take it if talibans offered 6 000 000 $ and a few words as compensation for 11/9 ? Mayby it would end the war.

    April 7, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Wango

    Murder.!!! I am suprised it took CNN so long to take down its coverage of Tiger and the iPad.. providing cover for their D.C masters.. No wonder the ratings are in the toilet. .. Their will be a day of reckoning.. And for the apologists and warmongers.. you people who back up murder no matter what you see. its really sad.. No wonder the world is in such a bad state..

    April 7, 2010 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
  4. Larry K

    During any kind of fighting there will be civilians killed... How can it be helped when the Enemy uses them as shiield???

    April 7, 2010 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  5. Daniel

    Well put;mazak! These right-wing nutjobs make me sick with their defending these "psyco" NATO troops! This is beginning to rub off on our juveniles as we see an increase in bullying incidents in our schools.Those need to be brought to justice and that's that!!!

    April 7, 2010 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
  6. Delmy Rivera,

    Have you ever asked yourself why are we in Afghanistan?. I know we are in Iraq because of oil. Maybe we are in Afghanistan for OPIUM.

    April 7, 2010 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
  7. S Johnston

    Just watched a video of American troops slaughtering journalists and children, then making the comment, oh well, there should not have been kids in the van anyway its THEIR fault. Are you kidding me. How about targeting actual combatants, as you listen to and watch the tape you know right away the Americans are enjoying and begging these people to shoot back. Only problem, they unarmed, journalists and a family trying to help the wounded. The fallout from this is going to be immense. One thing that needs to be said here however, this is not Obama's war, the peopole of America voted in Bush twice and with it sealed their fate. Admit you screwed thisa up hopelessly, ask for some assistence from people the world still does respect and fix this. Or, continue down this path and watch as Asia trounces you on all fronts in the next five years.

    April 7, 2010 at 2:17 am | Report abuse |
  8. S Johnston

    I think again it's very American to blame NATO for this, as usual the USA will accept no responsibility for anything it does. And Iraq is America's doing. Maybe get the heck out of other peoples countries and try going through one day without wholesale slaughter of people for oil. Americans pull this nonsense they are trying to help people in Afghanistan and Iraq when they wont lift a finger to help people at home. Take a look around you, nobody beleives anything America has to say, You are liars and killers masquarading as some sort of savviour. Of what? there have been millions of innocent people killed in Iraq because you want their oil. same as Afghanistan. Well, the coalitions are moving out, my country included, you are on your own. America can no longer be trusted, and that is very very sad, Because there was a day when America had a lot of love and support from around the world. Now the world has had enough. You cannot even deal with what needs dealing with. You have lost every thing you got involved in since North Korea, which by the way still has nukes. You need a plan and a way to get back on the worlds good side, or you will be the next country without an economy. By the way did I mention you almost ruined the worlds economy by your greed? No, you certainly are no longer well liked. But when I see innocent people and children gunned down by your helicopters in the streets I now know who the real bad guys are.

    April 7, 2010 at 12:43 am | Report abuse |
  9. S Johnston

    It is with great sadness I say that I have finnally lost all respect for the American Armed Forces. Watched a clip of a helicopter slaughtering inocent men, then chilren in aq van as they tried to take care of the injured. Is this the new America? The whole world cried for you in 9/11, but you have thrown all that goodwill away and then some. The world no longer thinks of the US a democratic, safe and fair place to be or do buiness with. You did this to yourselves. Sadly, your country has turned out to be a bunch of bullies who truly enjoy using over the top force on smaller people. I am Canadian and American. I will not renew my Amarican citizenship. America has nothing anybody wants anymore. You are so arrogant and self absorbed you still think ther world approves of your tactics. Only CNN would consider an attack on civilians ok cause its America. And guess what these attacks are going on time and time again, and the troops aqre loving the bloodshed. Wait until they are back home with nothing to shoot except their neighbors. Shame on the America of today.

    April 7, 2010 at 12:33 am | Report abuse |
  10. Keith Tadlock, RN.

    Is this with respect to the story Don Lemon was reporting abut the 2 black hawks gunning down inadvertently 2 reports, some children et. al earlier today & if not, has that story "suddenly" gone off the air? It's rattled a few people all over town today (Portland, Oregon) & i can't seem t see the rest of the story.... Additionally, I "heard" it was a 2007 incident, not "a few days ago" or "recent" incident (do you guys think 2007 is recent?). Thank you guys, CNN rocks. Fox is full of socks.

    April 6, 2010 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Robert

    It looks like a lot of people have forgotten our American history, we had many civilians being butchered by the british during our revolutionary war, how about all the innocent civilians that died at the hands of Hitler, how about Beruit, oh and yes Osama Bin Laden. When are the people that disagree with our leaders going to understand that we are protecting our interests, regardless how small they may be, everywhere around the world. Our military men and women should not be any sort of targets, if you disagree with the leaders YOU PUT INTO OFFICE, then get them out of office, remember Watergate? The opposers need to stay away from the military, the funerals and the families of our service members, they do not make the decisions, it is our leaders, (Congrees, Senate, The house) point your agression in the right direction and leave our innocents alone.

    April 6, 2010 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  12. The Big Dog

    Actually, there are people who protest at their funerals!!! What is that? These men go to war because they love their country and they believe in what it stands for,and they die in the service of their country,but not a dang person but their friends and family cry. Instead we protest at their funerals,we spit at them like they are the evil doers,we concern ourselves with Iraqi and Afghani lives before theirs. That's the real tradgedy,not a few "innocent" lives lost in the middle east. For all I care,all the Iraqi and Afghani people could die and I'd sleep like a baby,good ridance,and all you left-wing activists out to save the world from the tyranny of the U.S. can go with them.

    April 6, 2010 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  13. The Big Dog

    Have you all forgotten what the Taliban did to us? Have you forgotten 9-11? Innocent lives lost in Iraq?!!! What about innocent lives lost here because of a malicious interpretation of a religion that originates from there? If your honestly concerned with a few "innocent" lives in Iraq or Afghanistan,then you have forgotten what happened to us,what THEY did to US. This isn't patty cake,its WAR. And what if they had been accurate with their shots? Then maybe some us troops would be dead,and some NATO troops,and then those "innocent" people would be dead for sure.
    The sad things is that when a U.S. troop dies,no one makes a bid deal out of it

    April 6, 2010 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
  14. Iraq Paramedic

    Hello Daniel, again a very emotional piece, when will you reveal your nationallity? I told you & everybody a couple of comments ago I am Texan but working & living in Iraq right now. OK on the subject of the deaths of innocents; yes it is terrible when anybody dies & especially an innocent person. As I read in a few of the comments this is war & unfortunately it does happen.
    As for blaming & taking Bush to trial for Iraq what about Saddam H. & all the innocent people & whole families he & his son's murdered in cold blood, what about all the women his son's raped & murdered. And speaking of corrupt families what about Wali & Hamid Karzi, ain't they just a couple of upstanding brothers. You could go on for a long time about this guy did this or that guy is to blame but why. There is bad & good in every country, race, religion & greed in the world, you just have to look for the one you want to be around & join that side. May GOD Bless & keep us all !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    April 6, 2010 at 8:51 am | Report abuse |
  15. Insan Mukmin

    Lies! Lies! and more lies! When is Obama and Bush going to be tried at the Hague for war crimes?

    April 6, 2010 at 12:36 am | Report abuse |
  16. domenow2

    @ #12: "grammer" oh the irony

    April 6, 2010 at 12:17 am | Report abuse |
  17. spoo

    I saw the video of the killing of journalis in Irak and I must say that those two pilots were drunk or in an hurry to go back to the base to watch a game on tv.

    April 6, 2010 at 12:08 am | Report abuse |
  18. Shawn

    It's generally a good idea to not shoot at NATO forces if they're moving into your house. Yes, NATO botched it up and got their intel wrong (mistakes happen), but it was the extremely dumb and knee jerk reaction of those two men trying to shoot at the NATO troops that got themselves and those women dead. If the police come to your house, you don't shoot them, you cooperate. It's no different in this case.

    If the Afghans want peace, they need to stop sheltering and supporting the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

    April 5, 2010 at 11:47 pm | Report abuse |
  19. simplefact

    Yes, the U.S. is far from perfect - the Vietnam War & the Iraqi invasion were our blunders.

    We are in Afghan for one thing - capture/kill Osama bin Laden. We are not there to occupy and we'll do everything possible to protect the innocent.

    If you [Taliban] want to the U.S. to leave Afghan, hand over Osama's head or put our will to the test! Unlike Vietnam, you'll be in for an unpleasant surprise!

    Prediction... Osama's head by July 4, 2011 (latest 9/11/11)!

    April 5, 2010 at 11:35 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Not convinced

    So how do we intend to pay for all these wars when we already have massive trillion dollar unfunded liabilities here at home?
    Where does the fiscal insanity end?
    America will go bankrupt if this naive, endless experiment of "pacifying" the middle east does not end within the next decade.
    America will end up like every other civilization in history that thought they could rule the world. Goodbye America, hello Roman Empire.

    April 5, 2010 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
  21. Omeghan

    In war-time...folks get killed ...dogs, cats, babies, kids and old folks too.
    Its a fact of war.
    Stop tying the soldiers hands & weapons and let them do their job!
    It's unfortunate ...but .... it's war !
    Stop pussy footing around over there.....

    April 5, 2010 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
  22. klb hall

    violence will never bring about the end of violence. no war has ever been won. civilians always die in war, and many are women and children. war cannot be made effectively if those making it are worrying about these tragedies. do we want to be good at war? do we want to live in a society that includes and produces people who are good at war? I do not want to live next door to such people, nor to let my children play at their houses. the best thing we could do for our troops and their families is to end the wars. the best thing we could do for america is to end the wars. the best thing we could do for the rest of the world is to end the wars. america cannot be great unless we outgrow the desire to be good at war.

    April 5, 2010 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
  23. White Master

    Who cares? Obviously, not American people. They only care about what´s going on in television land and who´s going to order the takeout tonight. Land of fat, home of the slave! Formally known as "Land of the Free and Home of the Brave" until marxist brainwashing took hold and hey elected frObama, the enemy of America!

    April 5, 2010 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
  24. andyk

    Hey, "Not okay with all the killing"–where were you when the Taliban were murdering women in soccer fields, ya hypocrite?

    So I guess we're grading on a curve... we just need to be better than the taliban?? Maybe we should leave their country and stop killing their civilians... our attempts at nation building aren't working... its been nearly a decade.

    April 5, 2010 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
  25. masak

    Another example of the discipline and training of US "Special Forces" – but here's a question – what is so "special" about these brave US troops? Is there a "special" course where they go and train to kill defenceless pregnant women then dig their bullets out of thir bodies to cover up their henious, cowardly crimes?

    And before all you right wing fascists come screaming in, I am in no way defending the Taliban or Al Qaeda – who are well documented in their own atrocities against innocent civilians – but really, how do you expect the so called "hearts and minds" to see you as an alternativeto these thugs and murderers with acts like this? The truth is – the US is no different – one set of thugs has simply replaced another, and more innocent people will continue to suffer.

    Today, the US is no closer to victory against Al Qaeda and its terrorist partners than it was on 9/11 and after all the billions spent , thousands of lives taken (mostly innocent civilians), all we have to show for it isa daily report of more and more atrocities committed by the so called US military. Its amazing how the world's largest and only remaining superpower can be held at bay for over 10 years by a group of illiterat, malnourished tribesmen who can't even shoot straight (see NY Times report from 2-3 days ago).

    Truely a day of shame for US "Special" Forces and for Americans everywhere. Stop asking "Why do they hate us?" It is pretty damn obvious why.

    April 5, 2010 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
  26. Greater than 0

    Good line from the General
    ""It is better to miss a target than to cause civilian casualties," he said in December. "We can always target enemy leaders later. We can't make up for the fact that we killed civilians.""

    April 5, 2010 at 8:49 pm | Report abuse |
  27. llcooj

    They should be brought up on war crimes!

    April 5, 2010 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse |
  28. John L Mendez

    As a Christian, I Pray everybody does not condemn NATO and forgive their killing of Afghan citizens and Pray for those victims eternal Salvation.

    April 5, 2010 at 8:31 pm | Report abuse |
  29. Devilnuts

    When terrorists stop walking into crowded markets and blowing themselves up, I will consider condemning the good guys for making honest mistakes. Not until.

    April 5, 2010 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
  30. Dale

    It is a sad mistake when the NATO forces kill civilians. It is an intentional tactic when the Taliban kill civilians. The US goes to extremes to prevent it. The Taliban goes to extremes to cause it.

    We should do all we can to prevent civilian casualties. But the surest way to minimize civilian casualties in the future is to eliminate the Taliban. Every Taliban leader killed probably saves 4 or 5 civilian lives by disrupting their terrorism operations.

    If the US wanted to kill civilians, there would be millions dead in an instant. The US is using great restraint in this war. The war we fight is against Taliban and Al Queda, not the civilian population or Islam.

    April 5, 2010 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
  31. Irrelevantor

    Whoopsie Daisy

    April 5, 2010 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
  32. LacrosseSon

    Hey, "Not okay with all the killing"–where were you when the Taliban were murdering women in soccer fields, ya hypocrite?

    April 5, 2010 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  33. ydrcoc

    I live in an area very close to a large military base. Often, returning troops settle in the area after discharge. Some of these young men and women work for utility companies or become cable installers. I have had 2 separate young men tell me that they went to war in The MIddle East believing they were being told the truth about their mission. Both came back utterly disillusioned and very cynical about our purported mission there. Both young men told me that Bin Laden died of a heart attack related to his renal failure prior to our entry into the area and that intelligence knew about it, as did commanders. Both had lost friends there and know more that returned home damaged forever, physically and mentally. I have suspected that Bin Laden has been dead for quite some time. Under the best of circumstances, people with ESRD are generally very medically fragile. Maybe we have not "caught" him yet is that there is no "him" alive to catch. Just how long can someone on dialysis cave-jump? Think about it......

    April 5, 2010 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  34. rah rah Obama, hes our man

    Its all George Bush's fault we know where the buck stops. Oh no wait, Obama was president during this, oh then this is not news. my error.

    April 5, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
  35. Kevin Ham

    wikileak: Video of apache helicopter killing jounalists and civilians.

    April 5, 2010 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
  36. kewfly

    Can someone please proof read these stories before putting them on the site? Everyone has mis-spelled words or bad/misused grammer!

    April 5, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  37. Victor

    There are reports elsewhere that say that is claimed US forces dug the bullets out of the womens bodies to remove evidence. ... it seems like only a portion of the facts are presented here.

    April 5, 2010 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  38. Amera

    It's unfortunate that tragic events such as what happened here are quickly misconstrued to make Islam and Muslims look like the evil ones and everyone else the heroes and bringers of justice. Clearly, these people were murdered by NATO forces and even though they had the decency to clarify when they were in the wrong, I wonder how many people will read this follow up story after the initial 'honor killing' account. The effect that they wanted to leave has already been ingrained into American minds.

    April 5, 2010 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
  39. chris

    It is hard for us to prove that we are trying to help Afghanistan if we keep killing their people. If such actions happened in the United States it would be considered an act of war and not merely collateral damage. Is it any wonder our corrent ties with Karzai are strained?

    April 5, 2010 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
  40. Jim H.

    NATO stonewalling and lies collapse under the weight of the truth, and/or was an insider about to tell all?

    April 5, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  41. Not okay with all the killing

    OKAY,,you reported this crime by the soldiers, now where is your story on the two journalists killed that was leaked today by Wikileaks.

    All this adds up to is more crimes against humanity perpetrated by the US.

    April 5, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  42. Wilborn

    I do not know of any war that has been fought where civilians are not killed. It is truly unfortunate, but that is going to happen no matter how hard you try not to let it happen. I bet the opposition has killed more of the civilians than the UN or NATO troops have. But don't take that as an excuse, just a fact of life.

    April 5, 2010 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  43. simplefact

    Until the Taliban hand over Osama's head, they are accomplices & Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Obama will sock it to them!

    Yes, it's unfortunate that innocent people are killed, but it's just a matter of time that we'll either see Osama's head or pulverize the Taliban!

    Just watch!

    April 5, 2010 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Your Dreamin

      Your wrong on both accounts, Osama is never going to be caught. Omar will still be around after we bail out in a few years, I'd say about election time. The Taliban will regroup and once again Afganistan will fold for the exact same reason it did the first time. And lastly there is never a worthy reason to cause the death of innocent people. We aren't defending our freedom, we aren't preventing any calamity, we are simple reinforceing a temporary puppet goverment to facilitate our access to oil. Just watch!

      July 19, 2010 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
    • SureDudeWhatever

      Riiiiiiight....youll find Osamas head resting on a pillow next to Bush on the Crawford Ranch, eating yellow cake

      August 16, 2010 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
  44. Ken

    What about the leaked video showing an attack on journalists and children? The CIA tried to prevent its release. Very damning! Go to wiki leaks dot org.

    April 5, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  45. Tomas

    Sad as it sound, how many cases of innocent men and women killed in the middle East by NATO is reported, let alone takin into serious investigation for true justice? None. I find sad that President bush is sitting somewhere enjoy himself after killing so people with his NATO friends in Iraq + Afghanistan. All Bush said was " it was a mistake" made by his CIA regarding Weapons of MD being made by Saddam, and he's gone free as if those lives destroyed = nothing. It is not right to start war on any country, which is what Bush and his NATO giants of special international rights did. Both Americans and Middle Easterners died as a result of such a tragic war that shouldn't be, and yet it is still going on! America must end the fight now, and seek a better image that represent what the Americans are about. We're not a nation of killers, and we better separate ourselves from people like Bush when they make decisions that make seem like international criminals! Bring him to court, and end the war in the middle East!!!

    April 5, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  46. CB

    I wonder why you would celebrate about news such as this...why would you use this to ridicule a political perspective? Innocent people have died and you use it as propaganda for your position. Disagree as you may with a political perspective...disagree about the war...but don't use this...the exception to the rule...to disgrace the military and to support your position.

    April 5, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  47. Daniel

    What a surprise!NATO actually admitting to any wrongdoing after being touted to kingdom come by the right-wing news media and the right-wing idiots who blog in here day after day bragging themselves hoarse about all these NATO "successes".

    April 5, 2010 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |