Two teenage boys travelling by motorcycle through the dangerous Panjwai district southwest of Kandahar city were shot and killed Thursday by Canadian soldiers on patrol.
The boys, 14 and 16, were going from their home village of Zangabad to see a friend in the Panjwai district centre, villagers said.
Shortly after 6 p.m., they rounded the corner in the hamlet of Pay-e-Moluk and came upon the Canadian soldiers conducting a meeting, or shura, near a mosque with village elders.
The troops, who were surprised by the sudden appearance of a motorcycle heading toward them at close distance, said they shouted and used visual warnings. They also fired a warning shot.
"The driver did not heed the warnings. In fact he accelerated, demonstrating known insurgent protocols. Soldiers then fired shots in order to stop the motorcycle," Major Vance White, a spokesman for the military, said.
The driver was hit in the calf. He fell from the bike and hit his head.
His passenger was shot in the stomach.
The soldiers immediately started to provide first aid and took the boys to the nearby Canadian patrol base where medical staff continued to try to save their lives. But both boys succumbed to their wounds within 40 minutes of the shooting. A helicopter Medevac was requested, but it was cancelled after the two were pronounced dead.
Villagers who witnessed the shootings said the boys were travelling very fast. "Teenagers can be reckless," one man said.
But that did not stop some of those who knew the boys from being critical of the deadly force.
"The people say the Canadians came to Afghan to bring security. And we expect them to bring security," a man named Assadullah said. "But now they are bringing insecurity."
The civilian toll in Afghanistan is much higher this year than last, the United Nations said in a recent report.
The Taliban use such incidents to foster hatred of the foreign soldiers. After prayers in local mosques in the Panjwai and other districts where they hold sway, they tell worshippers that the ISAF troops are invaders who want to kill Muslim people.
Major White said last night that the villagers had not raised complaints about the shooting, which is often the case when soldiers kill civilians.
Canadian General Jonathan Vance, the head of international forces in Kandahar province, has directed the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service to conduct an investigation, in part to determine whether the two boys were innocent civilians or acting for the insurgents. No weapons or explosives were found on them.
Many Taliban operate within the Panjwai district and it is an area where hidden explosive devices are routinely buried.
The soldiers involved in the shooting incident were conducting a routine patrol to find bombs and to talk with local elders about the recent death of an ANA soldier.
"All Canadian soldiers are trained to take all appropriate steps to minimize civilian casualties, and in situations like this, use their firearms as a last resort," Major White said.
They are authorized to take action to protect Afghan National Security Forces, civilians and themselves only when they believe lives are being threatened, he said. "In this instance, the lives of the other villagers participating in the shura were also endangered."Report Typo/Error