Afghan and American troops forced civilians to march ahead of them on roads believed to have been filled with bombs and landmines planted by insurgents, according to allegations from villagers in southern Afghanistan.
No civilians or soldiers were harmed in the incident, but if true it would be a serious violation of domestic and international law. The Afghan general in charge of Afghan troops in the Panjwai district, and the district’s governor, denied the allegations, while a spokesman for NATO said the incident is under investigation.
Last month, scores of villagers came to the district meeting hall along with their village elders, and all told the local authorities similar story. They said American and Afghan soldiers pulled them out of their homes one evening in early September.
According to Faizal Mahmud, the deputy head of Panjwai’s council of elders, the villagers claimed the soldiers arbitrarily detained them, lined them up, and forced them to walk in front of the soldiers for over a mile, through roads believed to be packed with explosives by the Taliban.
The story was corroborated by many other villagers contacted by phone by National Public Radio. “They brought in people from all the villages on the sides of the main paved road. The Taliban had told us not to go through this way because there were a lot of mines. All of the road to the next village was mined. But the soldiers told us to keep walking in front of them,” a villager named Hamidullah told NPR.
“They kept telling us to show the mines. We said we didn’t know where the Taliban planted mines. Then they told us to move forward to the next village, on the way if anything happens, you are responsible for the consequences. We kept praying, oh, God, save us,” another participant named Ahmad told NPR.
US and NATO officials denied these things took place and would not comment except to say that an investigation is underway. NATO spokesman Col. Daniel J. W. King said “We take all allegations of human rights violations very seriously. At this time there is no credible information or evidence to substantiate these claims. It is our top priority to continue to assess the situation, and if any information or evidence does come to light, we’ll take the appropriate legal actions.”