April 12th, 2010
07:32 AM ET

Officials: NATO troops fire on bus, kill 4 civilians

[Update April 13, 2010] A senior U.S. military official tells CNN that Gen. Stanley McChrystal is “extremely upset” about this incident. The general is so upset, the official said, that he has "ordered" all troops under his command to "re-read" his tactical directive on dealing with civilians. So far, no new directives are planned.

Kabul, Afghanistan  NATO-led troops fired on a bus in southern Afghanistan on Monday morning, killing four civilians and wounding 18 others, officials said.

The wounded included women and children, said Zalmai Ayoubi, the spokesman for Kandahar province where the shooting occurred.

The bus was headed from Kandahar to Oruzgan province when troops with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) asked the bus driver to stop.

The bus driver did not recognize the troops because it was still dark, said Ayoubi. The troops then fired on the bus, he said.

Soldiers later took some of the wounded civilians to an ISAF clinic.

Interior ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary confirmed the shooting. ISAF officials also confirmed the incident and released a statement, saying troops tried to warn the approaching vehicle to stop by shooting up flares and then shot at the vehicle after it did not stop. The coalition troops then thought the approaching vehicle was a threat and fired at it, the statement said.

"ISAF deeply regrets the tragic loss of life in Zhari district this morning," the statement said.

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 ISAF. On Monday, protesters on the outskirts of Kandahar burned tires in a demonstration against the deaths (photo above).

- Journalist Matiullah Mati contributed to this report

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Filed under: Civilian deaths
soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. Soldier fighting in Afghanistan

    This unfortunate incident took place not too far from my FOB on HWY 1 on which i have traveled hundreds of times. I take part in a Route Clearance Package just like our sister unit thats involved in this story. We go out every day and do the unthinkable, we look for IED's (roadside bombs). Every single day we put our lives on the line and look for the very things that try to kill us. All the while we are moving at an incredibly slow rate of speed so we dont miss anything. The thing that most people back home dont realize is that nearly ALL of the drivers in Afghanistan (ESPECIALLY BUS DRIVERS!) are high off a combination of Hasheesh, Marijuana, and opium. Imagine driving down your highway back home and every single driver was stoned! now put a target on your car, drive very slowly on the busiest highway in the country, and look for bombs! Welcome to our world! Yes, we have escalation of force proceedures but need i remind you that the same people we are fighting were directly linked with the same people who hijacked 4 American planes on 9/11 and flew them into buildings! What makes you think that the Taliban, who have absolutely no regard for the Afghan population, wouldnt hijack a bus and ram it into my convoy, or any ISAF convoy for that matter? And yet we have been instructed to just take the hit. Because when it comes down to it, we are here to protect the Afghan people. And if that means we have to sacrifice our lives to prove this point then i guess we'll have to. Sadly enough, this order has really broken down the leadership chain of command and leads a lot of us to ponder this question; how can we expect to win this war when they tie our hands behind our backs? it would seriously appall the American people if they only knew the sacrificial precautions we have to make out here to protect the Afghan people from themselves, only for it to be at such a great risk to us. I hope this may serve as an eyeopener for all of you. 2 1/2 months to go before this nightmare ends for me, but the unfortuante cycle is bound to get worse for the next to be deployed.

    April 29, 2010 at 3:44 am | Report abuse |
  2. Deloris Jernigan

    So the NATO soldiers were just suppose to wait until the bus ran them over or if it had been a suicide bomber, blew them up. The ROE's for the US military are ridiculous! The US military does not want to kill innocent citizens but in a situation like this they are just suppose to say "Oh well I guess we will sacrifice our lives just in case these are innocent civilians speeding towards us, refusing to stop, even though we have tried to warn them and they are aware of want the insurgents do". Thank you McKrystal and Petraeus for showing how much you care about the troops! Bring our troops home and let the poppy producing natives(who do know what they are growing the poppies for, and the Taliban and there higher ups fight it out. The natives need to help themselves, obviously they don't want to. For all you liberals who protest this post go over and help the natives yourself.

    April 15, 2010 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Abdul Walid

    no troops no civillians are blame the blame is driver he must be concentrated to this kind of issues.
    but the nato troops must also think that none of the sucide happened yet in this kind of vechiles or any athor passenger vehicle.
    we need here in afghanistan nato forces to help afghans improve security.
    from afghanistan

    April 15, 2010 at 1:34 am | Report abuse |
  4. terry

    When did Americas free speech ammendment have to be moderated in accordance with anybodies policy as long as there is freedom of speech, you should be free to say what we think or feel. After all this is America the home of the FREE and the land of the BRAVE. I am darn proud to be called an American.

    April 14, 2010 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
  5. terry

    I feel that the troops deserve our respect and loyalty, they did not ask to go there it is their duty to serve our Country AS ORDERED> NOT ASKED. If they have to do their job we need to learn ours, not supporting the war but SUPPORTING our Men. We are America because of these brave men and men like them before, everyone thats so unhappy, move to Afghanastan and live there.....

    April 14, 2010 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Croaker

    Incidents involving local drivers approaching military checkpoints or convoys after being warned off happened again and again in Iraq, and it seems I recall previous similar incidents in Afghanistan as well. It seems there is a cultural aspect to these incidents, a disincliniation of local/natives to disrepect the danger and potential threat the soldiers will feel when an approach vehicle fails to respond to their warnings. It distresses me that we don't hear more about the local populace being educated on how they should respond and behave around military so the military doesn't interpret their behavior as a threat.

    April 14, 2010 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  7. brown

    These people hated us before we invaded their country and they will hate us
    long after we are gone!

    April 14, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Anderson

    Even if all ISAF troops were given additional language training, this sort of incidence will continue to happen. Just try shouting at someone in car while standing on a sidewalk. Things are more messy in a war zone.

    April 14, 2010 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Tim

    Its war, bad things happen, even your own family members can be taken at any moment, but this country is in a recession and isn't anywhere near over. Plus we're so far into debt that we can't afford to help ourselves let alone anyone else. We need to get it done and over with and stop dragging it out. To these terrorists the longer we take they see weakness. We need to show them that the United States is number one for a reason and put them back in their place and get back to our own problems again.

    April 14, 2010 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  10. Patrick

    Turns out is was Amercan troops....again. Funny how it always sems to e American troops opening fire on civilians and even on their allies from time to time! The Brits have a large contingent out there and never seem to make these mistakes. Just goes to show thats the Brits are more disacplined than the US gun ho grunts

    April 14, 2010 at 3:34 am | Report abuse |
  11. Zach P

    I love how articles from some sources are willing to admit that this was done by US forces. Way to go CNN, reporting the half truth with the conviction of a true mainstream media outlet!

    April 14, 2010 at 1:56 am | Report abuse |
  12. Oddvark

    There were far less deaths under taliban and alqueda.

    April 13, 2010 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jeff

    This is a war. In a war, things like this happen despite safeguards. NATO and coalition troops go to great lengths to prevent it and often times at great risk to themselves. So....to recap.........Yes, it is a war and in war things like this happen. Perhaps those protesting there, here or anywhere else mind remind themselves that inspite of the loss of innocent life, there would be much more loss of innocent life if we weren't there. How many were dying at the hands of the Taliban and Al Queida before we were there?

    April 13, 2010 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  14. gayle

    EOF is done in steps (depending on the circumstances and how quickly problems arise), unfortunately and obvisiously it seems something was skipped; these units have plenty of tools to make themselves known and warn approaching vehicles...whether it was an untrained marksman behind the crew serve weapon since the bus was not disabled by a shot to the engine block, or the isaf soldier panicked and shot up a bus with multiple passengers probably with men, women and children aboard, something is obvisiously amiss here. Now we have more upset Afghani families that could turn into insurgents to ease their grief and yet we still have to fulfill a difficult promise of no more unnecessary deaths in times of war.

    April 13, 2010 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Christina

    Completely the driver's fault – as deployable members of the US military, we are trained to fire on anyone and anything that proves itself a threat. The soldiers warned this oncoming bus not once, but twice, and thus had every right to treat it as deadly force. If this had happened in the US, the tires should have (and probably would have) first been targetted. But in a deployed, and therefore significantly more dangerous, environment, when faced with deadly force you use deadly force, which is exactly what these soldiers did. In my humble opinion, Gen. McChrystal has absolutely no right to be upset toward the US military, forcing troops under him to re-read directives and such. The soldiers did precisely what they were supposed to have done under the circumstances – no more and no less.

    April 13, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  16. joe.

    There is no such thing as innocent civilians, they are all the enemy, get use to it. I say pull the troops out and nuke em all, then lets get over to Iran and give it to those bums to.

    April 13, 2010 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Jodi Goad

    A terrible incident happened because the bus driver didn't recognize the ISAF troops, how could he have not when the flares the soldiers used as a warning are almost blindingly bright? Maybe he panicked! Easy to do with so much unrest in his country, maybe he thought the enemy was impersonating the ISAF troops....anything could have gone through his mind,
    Our NATO troops have to think quickly on their feet, a decision made in seconds could mean life or death for them. This large vehicle coming toward them even after warning flares were used, not making any effort to stop, could mean devastation for the soldiers.
    I don't think one single soldier would have fired on the bus if they knew no harm was meant for them. Once seeing the true situation, the soldiers did what they could do to help. Nothing can undo what has already been done, if any good can come from this bad situation, maybe a little trust between our troops and the civilians of Afghanistan will keep anything like this from happening again.
    Jodi

    April 13, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  18. michael

    They souldnt send out buses out the city at night since its still dangerous. perhaps if the troops aimed at the tires first, We still need to clear and secure the city of its militants but the bus should've stopped

    April 13, 2010 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  19. J

    Would have been nice if the nationalities of the NATO troops in question were included in the report.

    April 13, 2010 at 7:17 am | Report abuse |
  20. Greg Carlton

    "The bus was headed from Kandahar to Oruzgan province when troops with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) asked the bus driver to stop...The bus driver did not recognize the troops because it was still dark, said Ayoubi. The troops then fired on the bus, he said."
    Really, this is exactly the way it happened? Troops "asked" the bus driver to stop? In other words, it must be 100% the bus driver's fault. I find it hard to believe that this bus driver did not know that U.S. and International troops have been in his country for more that eight years now setting up checkpoints in order to stop or at least limit insurgent activities. Either they need to find a better way to "ask" people to stop, or this story is simply a bunch of B.S. The real story will come out soon. Everybody on the bus was probably armed with cameras.
    Either way, Obama had better send some more troops to Afghanistan now, to fight all of the family and friends of the people who were "accidentally" killed. These people will now be fighting against the ISAF; congratulations for creating all of these new "insurgents".

    April 13, 2010 at 4:35 am | Report abuse |
  21. rashad abdulhaqq

    what a disgusting war with no real purpose other than mindless murder

    April 12, 2010 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Josh

    Well, as unfortunate as this is it seems to be a required casualty in these times. They shot flares, warned them and asked the bus to stop and the bus didn't. It reminds me of the stories you hear of troops stationed at check-points in the Middle East, and terrorists will drive through and BLOW UP in the Check Point.

    It is understood that the Driver didn't know, but if flares were launched the visuals of the team would have been noticeable.

    Either way, upsetting story.

    April 12, 2010 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
  23. LacrosseSon

    Oops!
    So, do the terrorists apologize when THEY kill civilians?

    April 12, 2010 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  24. Jim Murphy

    This story didn't get much coverage in the Washington Post. Guess it would have offended too many of thier readers. In Obama's wars things continue to go badly. The US is enormously unpopular in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The Iraqis will ally with our arch enemy, Iran and the Afghanis will be anti American jsut as they have been anti Soviet for generations to come. We continue to spend money and lifes and we continue to blackmail NATO is supporting us. Is there a Democrat out there who can challenge Obama for the Democratic nomination in 2012? I hope so. I won't make the mistake of voting for a war monger like Obama again and most of my family and friends feel the same way

    April 12, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  25. Lib4Life

    When is Obama going to get these savage killers under control? He must take a certain Bush-like pleasure in seeing the Iraqi and Afghani people suffer.

    April 12, 2010 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  26. Smith360

    Oops, I guess the standard denial these days to avoid blame and court marshals is to simply state one of the troops 'thought' he saw a RPG sticking out of the Bus before opening up. The US Military have problem already given sacks of taxpayer dollars to the family's of these victims to help ease their suffering and help them prosper in the future.

    April 12, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  27. LN

    Didn't recognize the troops...come -on...how many different people try to stop buses who are holding guns & wearing uniforms...stop means stop...did they miss the flares also?

    April 12, 2010 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  28. Robert

    By now it should not be strange to have the ISAF soldiers halting vehicles to question or search them. Those that decide to ignore that request have to be considered hostile and the soldiers have every right to defend themselves.

    It's tragic that innocents were injured/killed due to the drivers stupidity. But this is not the fault of the Soldiers, they have to live in a perpetual state of anxiety everytime one of these nuts decides to ignore them and drive through.

    April 12, 2010 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  29. David Conrad

    “[T]o my knowledge, in the nine-plus months I’ve been here, not a single case where we have engaged in an escalation of force incident and hurt someone has it turned out that the vehicle had a suicide bomb or weapons in it and, in many cases, had families in it. That doesn’t mean I’m criticizing the people who are executing. I’m just giving you perspective. We’ve shot an amazing number of people and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force.” - Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander, ISAF, and commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan

    April 12, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  30. chinankh

    ......just horrible. Once again, "we regret the loss of life." These words are hollow simply because they are always being said. Of course, this does not stop these killing of literally innocent people. I am curious, why in the world is NATO in charge (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) in Afghanistan anyway? I mean, that organization was built to thrawt the expansion of the mighty Russian Empire..
    to any extent...it is sad..but i am not surprised..it is hard to selectively kill...in other words..the very act of killing brings innocents into the fray...

    April 12, 2010 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  31. Tiffany Wellcocked

    We 'Deeply Regret' loss of life – how stupid do they think the A'stan people are , Nato could not care less about how many A'stan people they kill and no doubt the inquiry will bew the usual whitewash.
    All they care about is whether this mass murder will make it more difficult to impose western style imperialism over A'stan and eventually exploit its oil and other natural products, one day these murderes disguised as liberators will face punishment if not in this life then the next.

    April 12, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  32. Sayed

    And they are gonig to appologize profousely till they do it again in about a couple of days. They are all Terrorists – whether its the Nato or Taliban – who ever is using voilence in order to get a political gain and in process kills innocent civilians is a Terrorist. Whether that person is wearing a uniform or not is not the issue, the actions speak for themselves.

    I have said it before all of these preachers of democracy need to get out of the region and leave us alone. We dont need them, we dont want them but have been imposed on us by Karzais, Zardaris, Mubaraks, Abdullahs. The stooges and puppets of these powers.

    All are welcome without guns No One is welcome with guns...!

    April 12, 2010 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  33. Dwight

    Its war...civilians will die...

    April 12, 2010 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
  34. Dabest3

    So now they call them NATO troops when innocent bystander get killed? Foreign troops need to get out specially American soldiers. There is no more justification to occupy afghanistan

    April 12, 2010 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  35. Beth Lunsford

    This is a war. These people were heading to a stronghold of the Taliban. I don't fault any troops. Get the heck out of town & don't be traveling to questionable places. Obama already asks our troops to fight with one arm behind their back! What the hell is wrong with this picture??

    April 12, 2010 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  36. rk

    It is tragic when innocent lives are lost, but the Afghani citizens need to recognize the difference between the ISAF and Taliban with regard to civilian deaths. The Taliban actively targets civilians by bombing crowded areas, such as market places. They attack ISAF troops from behind non-combatants often using them as human shields. Furthermore, they rule through intimidation of innocents. Remember a few weeks ago – CNN did a piece on a young girl who fled an abusive marriage at a young age, only to have her nose cut off by the Taliban!

    While The Taliban systematically targets civilians, ISAF troops, when combating such an enemy are sometimes forced into situations in which they have a split second to make a judgement call to identify a threat. When safeguards in place aren't followed, events like those mentioned in the article may occur. The big difference is that the while the troops try to avoid these situations, the Taliban plans for them without remorse.

    April 12, 2010 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
  37. truthyeoof

    Criminals

    April 12, 2010 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
  38. Duane

    Although I can see why the driver did not stop, because he was worried it was not troops, we cannot lay the blame on the troops as well. The fact remains that the fault lies with the insurgent groups.

    By using vehicles as bombs they created a situation on mistrust and concern. This causes innocents to be killed when a vehicle does not stop such as this.

    I feel sorry for all sides in this loss of life and hope there is a way to get this fixed so it does not happen again.

    April 12, 2010 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
  39. Phillip

    NATO policy – shoot and ask questions later.

    And we wonder why they hate us.

    April 12, 2010 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
  40. Jim Bob

    Terrorists commonly use their own people as human shields, causing 90% of civilian casualties.

    April 12, 2010 at 8:51 am | Report abuse |
  41. guestHawk

    More anti-West reporting...I guess we had no Afghan help on this patrol.

    April 12, 2010 at 8:45 am | Report abuse |