2007 Shinwar shooting
Coordinates: The 2007 Shinwar shooting, also known as the Shinwar massacre, was the killing of a number of Afghan people on 4 March 2007, in the Shinwar District of the Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan. United States Marines, fleeing the scene of a car bomb attack and ambush by Afghan militants, fired on people and vehicles surrounding them, according to initial reports killing as many as 19 civilians and injuring around 50 more. The exact casualty figures have not been firmly established.
The United States Marine Corps conducted an internal inquiry from January 2008. In May that year it determined that the Marine Corps unit had acted "appropriately and in accordance with the rules of engagement". The report was condemned by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, and by the United Nations mission in Afghanistan. Further revelations in 2010 led employees of Amnesty International and the International Bar Association to assert that there was prima facie evidence that international humanitarian law had been violated.
Sequence of events
On 4 March 2007, Haji Ihsanullah, a member of Hezb-e Islami Khalis (or the Tora Bora Military Front, depending on source), drove a minivan laden with explosives into one of the vehicles making up a US military convoy, which included either three or six humvees. A US Marine was injured. Sources differ on whether or not hidden gunmen then also opened fire on the convoy. The US forces fled the area, firing on some vehicles for between 6 and 16 miles while driving along the Afghan street.
According to several witnesses and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, the US Marines' response to the car bombing included indiscriminate firing at passing civilians on the busy highway. They asserted that elderly men, women and children were killed. Akhtyar Gul, a local reporter who witnessed the shooting, claimed that the Marines sprayed civilians with machine gun fire even though the Marines were not under attack.
According to Associated Press and Afghan journalists, US troops confiscated photos and videos of the incident and its aftermath. A freelance photographer working for the Associated Press claimed that two Marines and a translator asked him: "Why are you taking pictures? You don't have permission." Another photographer claimed that he had been told by US troops, through a interpreter: "Delete them [your photos], or we will delete you."
The killings were followed by widespread protests across Afghanistan and drew sharp criticism from President Hamid Karzai. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission's report asserted that: "In failing to distinguish between civilians and legitimate military targets, the US Marine Corps Special Forces employed indiscriminate force. Their actions thus constitute a serious violation of international humanitarian standards."
Major General Frank Kearney, head of the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), ordered the entire 120-member unit out of Afghanistan pending an investigation into the incident, and announced that there was no evidence supporting the Marines' story that they had come under fire. The unit's commander and senior officer were relieved of their duties on 3 April 2007 and re-assigned to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Kearney's order to have the unit depart Afghanistan was later found by the Department of Defense's Inspector General to be within his authority, and reasonable. Compensation payments of approximately $2,000 each were reportedly paid to the families of those killed or wounded.
Investigation and inquiry
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The shooting came under investigation by both Afghanistan and the United States. On 12 April 2007, an initial US inquiry[by whom?] determined that the Marines used "excessive force when they killed civilians after a suicide bombing", and was referred to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service for a criminal inquiry. The The New York Times of 20 April 2007 included an article asserting that the shooting was similar to the Haditha killings.
The Pentagon issued a formal apology for the incident on 7 May 2007. "This was a terrible, terrible mistake," said US Army Colonel John Nicholson, "and my nation grieves with you for your loss and suffering. We humbly and respectfully ask for your forgiveness." This was dismissed as premature by General James T. Conway, Commandant of the Marine Corps, who said: "I would just as soon that no one ... apologize or talk about 'terrible, terrible mistakes'."
James Mattis, then a Marine Corps lieutenant general, ordered a court of inquiry to be held. The court at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina formally investigated the incident in January 2008, hearing from more than 50 witnesses, including Afghans, over 17 days. Much of the testimony was characterized as "vague and contradictory". The four Marines who had fired their weapons did not testify—according to Declan Walsh, writing in The Guardian of London, "because they had not been granted immunity from prosecution". In May 2008 the inquiry concluded that the US troops "acted appropriately and in accordance with the rules of engagement and tactics, techniques and procedures in place at the time in response to a complex attack."
Testimony to the inquiry was classified and not released, and 12,000-page report was also unpublished. No criminal charges were brought, although some officers did receive an "administrative reprimand".
The verdict infuriated the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission. Kubra Aman, a member of the Afghan House of Elders from Nangarhar, said "I am very angry. This is too much." The decision was also criticised by the United Nations mission in Afghanistan, whose spokesperson Aleem Siddique said "It is disappointing that no one has been held accountable for these deaths".
In 2010, Mark Ellis of the International Bar Association told Channel 4 News of the UK that that based on documents released by Wikileaks, "there is prima facie evidence from the military log that suggests the troops could be investigated for war crimes" but that legal hurdles would probably prevent a hearing before the International Criminal Court (ICC). Sam Zafiri of Amnesty International took a similar line, saying that "There is certainly prima facie evidence of violations of international humanitarian law ... It's not so much about whether an investigation into what happened at Jalalabad is re-opened, but rather publish what the US military did investigate, who they talked to, what were the results and how did they arrive at the decision they came to."
In March 2015, the American journal[under discussion] Military Times published a series of articles about the incident, written by Andrew deGrandpre. Fred Galvin, who commanded the Marine unit at the time of the incident, said that despite being cleared by the court of inquiry, he and his men still felt they were stigmatised as a result of the accusations.
- Civilian casualties of the War in Afghanistan (2001–present)
- Coalition casualties in Afghanistan
- Command responsibility
- International Security Assistance Force
- Taliban insurgency
- Haditha killings
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to 2001–present war in Afghanistan.|
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