A NATO foot patrol along a highway in Wardak Province opened fire on a busload of civilians today, killing four and injuring at least 10 others. In a statement regarding the incident, a NATO spokesman said that the troops attacked the bus “in self-defense.” The nationality of the NATO forces was not immediately available.
NATO said the bus veered toward the patrol before they opened fire, but the bus seems to have been full of civilian passengers. The NATO statement seems to contradict a previous statement on the incident by Provincial Governor Haleem Fidai, who said the civilians were killed in the crossfire of a battle between the troops and militants. NATO doesn’t mention any gunfight associated with the killings.
While there is no good time shoot up a busload of civilians, the timing of the incident couldn’t be worse, coming the same day that top UN official in Afghanistan Kai Eide warned that the growing number of civilian casualties are causing deep resentment among the civilian populace. NATO insisted that they are aware of being “in Afghanistan under UN mandate at the invitation of the Afghan government,” and that they do “everything possible to avoid civilian casualties.”