KABUL: US Special Forces killed three family members in a late-night raid on a doctor’s home near Khost, believing they were linked to al-Qaeda. Anger aroused by the raid in southeastern Afghanistan was fanned by a visit of commiseration by Afghani President Hamid Karzai, whom some suggested had an eye on looming elections.
“The Americans entered without warning. They first killed one of my nephews, Amin, who was 14 years old, who was sleeping next to a rifle,” said Bilal Hassan, who works for the provincial department of health.
The family was woken with a shock by the 11pm raid on their home at the foot of the snowy mountains.
“My brother went out with a gun. He was shot down, like his wife who followed him,” he said.
A sister-in-law was hit in the spinal cord and paralyzed.
“Then they released their dogs,” the doctor said.
The dogs attacked the bodies and bit off some of the fingers, he said. Then they bit the wounded woman and a child of five.
“Everyone was screaming, crying,” Hassan said.
The search lasted close to five hours.
“The Americans searched our women themselves,” he said.
The local Pashtun culture considers it a crime for women to be touched by men who are not their family.
“They took our savings, all our guns, used for self-defense, and even papers for some of our properties … Why did they do all that?” he asked.
Several days later the US military released a statement saying the operation had been intended to “disrupt the al-Qaeda terrorist network” and that three “militants” were killed when they tried to shoot the soldiers.
Five suspects were arrested, including the target of the raid, who was believed to be “in direct contact with al-Qaeda leaders, outside of Afghanistan,” the statement said.
But in Khost several people, including expatriates who have looked into the incident — which has become known as the “Bilal case” — corroborated the version of Hassan, the doctor.
And a month and a half later all but one of those “al-Qaeda network suspects” have been released.
Hassan said the US military, perhaps partially admitting to a blunder, had given him 225,000 afghani (US$4,500) in compensation for the raid.
But they have not returned confiscated items and still hold Hassan’s nephew, Ahmed Noor, who was visiting the family while on his holidays from Dubai, where he works as a driver.
The 25-year-old Noor “like all of us, has never been a Taliban,” Hassan said.
He presented a letter from the driver’s employer, a producer of bottled water in the United Arab Emirates, saying Noor had been given leave. An official in the Dubai office confirmed that Noor worked there.