British forces wreak havoc in Afghanistan, shatter entire family: BBC
It is no surprise to anyone to learn that different occupation forces and troops in Afghanistan have committed all kinds of atrocities and crimes, many of which remain unreported.
A raid by the not-so-special British special forces back in 2012 on a house in Afghanistan resulted in killing the parents and severely wounded their infants, as revealed by a BBC investigation.
It is no surprise to anyone to learn that different occupation forces and troops in Afghanistan have committed all kinds of atrocities and crimes, many of which remain unreported, not investigated, and unaccounted for.
In one instance, to be added to hundreds of other similar stories that remain undisclosed and waiting for someone to uncover, a family was shattered overnight by a raid carried out by British special forces on a civilian residence in Afghanistan, as revealed by an investigation conducted by BBC.
Kill/Capture; a technique to justify civilian killings
On the evening of August 6, 2012, little did the family of Abdul Aziz Uzbakzai know that their lives that night would change forever, completely shattered by invading forces that decided to put an end to life as they know it. Little did the Afghan man’s family know that a "Kill/Capture" raid was decided upon the family.
It was Ramadan. The family had spent an ordinary day like any other in the rural village of Shesh Aba in Nimruz province.
However, one thing stood out on that day. It was out of the ordinary, according to the family's account. Two unknown male visitors arrived at the family’s residence, and because Afghans are hospitable, they offered them food until they left without any incidence recorded. The whole situation left Abdul Aziz wary and anxious, but there was nothing that he could have done.
Later in the day, at about 3 am, special British forces descended from military helicopters and headed toward where the family was sleeping.
Upon hearing the gunshots, Abdul Aziz woke up, and before he could know it, soldiers had barged into his room, pushing him on the ground, handcuffing, and blindfolding him, as he recounts.
"I pleaded with them to let me go to where my son and daughter-in-law and their children were sleeping," Abdul Aziz said. "I could hear my two daughters screaming and pleading for help. No one was helping them. I could not do anything for my children."
The foreign soldiers asked him about the visitors who came to the house earlier that day, he recalled.
The special forces operatives had also gone to the house next door, where a widower called Lal Mohammad lived with his six sons and three daughters. One of his sons, Mohammad Mohammad, who was 12 at the time, told the BBC that he and his brothers were brought outside and detained by the raiding forces. He was blindfolded and taken separately to the home of Hussain, Abdul Aziz’s son, and held there for the rest of the raid.
A trail of blood left behind
Abdul Aziz was able to take off his blindfold only after the troops left, which was hours later. Then he headed to the place where Hussain and Ruqqia - his daughter-in-law - and the boys had been sleeping, only to find a horrific scene with blood all over the place. "There was blood everywhere,” he said, "blood soaked into the sheets and the mattresses."
Hussain and Ruqqia were left there lifeless; they had been both shot in the head. The bloody bedclothes of Imran, 3 years old, and Bilal, 1 and a half years old - Abdul Aziz’s grandchildren – lay there, but the boys were nowhere to be found.
Mohammad Mohammad ran back next door to his family home, where he had last seen his older brothers detained by the soldiers. He found Mohammad Wali, 26, and Mohammad Juma, 28, lying lifeless inside the home with gunshot wounds to the head, he said.
Mohammad Mohammad's recount of events seems to fit the pattern of killings that had already raised suspicions among senior special forces officers.
'Deliberate Detention Operations'
In 2012, coalition occupation forces had been waging war in Afghanistan for a little over a decade. So-called "Deliberate Detention Operations,” also known as "Kill/Capture missions" were becoming the norm for elite special forces units.
Troops typically flew in by helicopters after dark and launched fast-moving assaults allegedly against suspected Taliban targets. For the UK, these night-time raids were usually executed by the SAS or SBS, the highly-respected special forces units of the British Army and Royal Navy, the BBC reported.
However, little did the British public know at the time that SAS operatives were being investigated for the illegal killing of Afghan men who had surrendered and been detained. Not only that. They even went as far as covering up the killings with trumped-up reports. In one instance, a BBC investigation exposed a SAS squadron for killing 54 people under suspicious circumstances in one six-month tour.
So, the pattern of killing the village of Nimruz saw that night reflects the brutal killing policy of the not-so-special British forces.
"I swear to God, my brothers were farmers," Mohammad Mohammad cried out. "They worked from dawn until night. They were neither with the Taliban nor with the government. They were killed for no reason."
‘Shot for a photo shoot’
The young parents, Hussain and Ruqqia, appeared to have been killed in their bed, the family said. At first, the family assumed Imran and Bilal were dead too. But the boys were kidnapped by the special forces, with one-year-old Bilal sustaining bullet wounds to his face and shoulder and three-year-old Imran with a gunshot wound in his abdomen, leaving him in a critical condition and fighting for his life.
The British military commander at the time had a decision to make about the massacre they had just left behind because UK law dictates that commanders are obliged to inform military police if there is any possibility that a Schedule 2 offense has been committed by a person under their command. Schedule 2 offenses are serious offenses like unlawful killing and grievous bodily harm.
And the British forces had just left a bloody murder behind, with a woman being among the dead and two infant boys shot and abducted. As per an Afghan newswire, the local governor was quoted as saying that the foreign forces had "killed and wounded six civilians," including "two children".
A former investigator from the Royal Military Police told the BBC that, based on the available information, there was "no question in my mind that this incident should have been referred to military police.”
However, it turned out for the UK national broadcaster that the raid was never referred to military police and never investigated by anyone outside of UK Special Forces.
Military police not informed
Answering a question by the BBC, the Ministry of Defense admitted to British forces being involved in the raid, confirming that a Serious Incident Review, or SIR (an internal review undertaken automatically after an operation goes wrong in a serious way), had been carried out, only to conclude that the commanding officer had decided against referring the incident to military police.
The MoD said, "There is a comprehensive MOD policy in place for actions to be taken in the event of possible civilian casualties.”
"Following a review by senior Army lawyers, it was decided by the Commanding Officer, in accordance with the Armed Forces Act 2006 and MoD policy, that the circumstances did not require a referral to the Service Police,” the Ministry said.
The Director of Special Forces at the time of the Shesh Aba raid was General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, who later became the head of the British Army, before stepping down earlier this year.
He said the recommendation to him at the time from the commanding officer in Afghanistan was that there was no evidence of a criminal offense, that the Rules of Engagement hadn't been broken, and that "the circumstances of the operation justified the lethal use of force,” he claimed.
He added, "And I certainly never saw or read any evidence or advice that suggested unlawful behaviour.” After all, the bloody walls and heads with gunshot wounds were nothing worth reporting for the alleged special forces.
In a tone similar to that of the US “collateral damage” term, General Carleton-Smith saw the civilians’ deaths as “occasionally tragic outcomes.”
“The Rules of Engagement were correctly observed despite the occasionally tragic outcomes that are sadly inevitable during war,” he told BBC.
The Rules of Engagement that applied to this raid dictated that lethal force could only have been used against someone who posed an imminent threat to life, however, nothing at Hussain and Ruqqia's home suggested the presence of any weapons or that they were armed when they were shot.
Speaking to the BBC on condition of anonymity, a former senior RMP officer who served at the time of the raid in Shesh Aba indicated that although SIR reports were intended in part to help commanding officers make a decision about whether a referral to military police was necessary, there were "serious problems" across the Armed Forces with the use of the reports.
"Instead of getting to the bottom of what happened and correcting any criminal behavior, SIRs became a way of cleansing an incident of any wrongdoing," he said, adding, "Some senior officers were using SIRs as a tool to prevent scrutiny. It seemed they were deciding on non-referral and then writing the SIR to justify the decision."
The senior official called the problem "widespread", stressing that the UK Special Forces was "notable in its lack of referrals.”
“In Special Forces, it's easier to keep it 'in house'," the former senior officer said. "There's a lot less oversight."
When the BBC asked the MoD if anyone had ever been officially disciplined over the Shesh Aba raid, they declined to respond, so all the crimes of their special forces stand without punishment.
Children abducted, arrested
The same helicopters that carried the raiding troops went back to their base with wounded Imran and Bilal on board. Hussain's youngest brother, Rahmat Ullah, who was 12, was also abducted.
The 12-year-old boy was detained during the raid without any idea about what had happened. When they removed his blindfold, aboard the helicopter, he saw his young nephews hurt and bleeding. Imran was conscious, but he was crying.
"He looked like he was in severe pain," Rahmat recalled. "He asked me for water, but I didn't have any."
The boys were separated and each went to a different military base. The family was not allowed to see Imran. Although he was only 3, he spent the first part of his recovery alone.
After their transfer, it was up to Abdul Aziz and their grandmother Mah Bibi to tell the boys what had happened and inform them that their parents were no longer there.
"They were just too small to understand," Abdul Aziz said. "Imran would cry more, maybe because of the pain, but maybe because he could sense that his mother was no longer alive."
Blood money rejected
The British army, guilty as it is, offered Abdul Aziz some compensation at the military hospital for the boys' injuries, but he turned the money down. "I refused to benefit from the murderers at that time, they had destroyed our world," he said.
When the boys were discharged, their grandparents took them home to the village. They have lived there since, with their older sister Hajira, in the home where they were shot. They don't remember anything about that night, or the weeks that followed, but after they came home, Imran began to scream in his sleep and sleepwalk outside during the night.
"I don't know why I do it," he said. "I am asleep when it happens, and my grandfather or grandmother brings me home."
Life never the same
10 years later, Imran is 13 now. He has a long surgical scar down the front of his torso and a scar on the left of his belly, and more scar tissue across his lower back, BBC reported. He has bullet fragments inside his torso - including a large fragment embedded in his spine.
"Running causes me pain, and I feel pain in my stomach," he said, pointing gently to the scars on his belly and back. "I also feel more pain in the winter and when the summer comes I'm relieved."
Bilal is 11. He has a scar on his face from a bullet that hit him millimeters from his left eye and a scar on his shoulder where another round hit him and left a bullet fragment inside his bone. He gets pain in his arm when he uses it a lot, he said, and the position of the scar on his face is a permanent reminder of how close he came to death.
Life to these kids as they know it is over. Nothing will be back to normal, and their scars are there to tell their story of how a special British forces raided their home, killed their parents, wounded them, and kidnapped them, only to have them returned to a house with no parents waiting for them.
The chapters about how foreign forces violated every humanitarian law in Afghanistan continue to unfold, with many other stories waiting in line to be told and to further expose the occupation forces that once wreaked havoc in the Asian nation.