NATO admits that its forces killed 2 seven year old boys on Thursday in Uruzgan province. "The two boys were shot dead when they were mistaken for insurgents during an operation in the northwest of Uruzgan on February 28, ISAF commander, US General Joseph Dunford, said in a statement. "I offer my personal apology and condolences to the family of the boys who were killed." In response to the incident, president Karzai says that "The government has repeatedly stressed that the war on terrorism cannot succeed in Afghan villages and homes, but rather in its sanctuaries and safe havens outside our borders," referring to Pakistan. The incident is under investigation but the shooters appear to have been Australian soldiers who had earlier been attacked.
The Afghan Ulema Council strongly condemns a fatwa by Pakistan's leading clerics which endorses suicide attacks in Afghanistan. Excerpt:
The Pakistani clerics last week released a statement saying recently that if Muslims have no nuclear weapons, they can sacrifice their lives for the sake of God, suggesting that suicide attacks against the US forces in Afghanistan would be considered permissible. The National Coalition has described the Pakistani's statement as an historic betrayal that will not be forgotten, saying they have clearly indicated they support the insurgent groups who are involved in killing the innocent. "The Ulema Council, people and the government of Afghanistan should respond to these treacherous remarks by Pakistan. Such Fatwas are plotted to destroy Afghanistan," said Abdullah Abdullah, head of National Coalition.
Khaama has more on this story, including reaction by additional secular leadership. The Fatwa extends to Kashmir and Palestine as well as Afghanistan. A regional Islamic conference has been planned for Kabul, at which the issue of suicide attacks was to be discussed, but the Pakistani clerics have decided not to attend.
ISAF announces various operations, including the arrest of a Haqqani leader in Khost province and the arrest or killing of small numbers of Taliban in Kunar, Nangarhar, Logar, Kandahar and Kunduz provinces.
Tolo's Lotfullah Najafizada reports that Helmand is much more secure, but Taliban strongholds remain and people are concerned about the maintenance of security as long as the government remains weak and corrupt.
A commentary in India Times predicts Afghanistan will partition along ethnic lines once NATO forces withdraw. (Afghanistan's previous civil war, and the alliance formed by the U.S. to drive out the Taliban, were largely along ethnic lines. Given the continued weakness of the central government and the lack of a democratic culture in the country, this does not seem implausible. -- C)