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Tuesday, 19 February, 2002, 07:27 GMT
Paras in shooting row fly home
Paras on patrol in Kabul
Paras have been enforcing security in Kabul
Two British paratroopers from a team accused of shooting dead an unarmed Afghan man taking a pregnant woman to hospital have been recalled to the UK for questioning.

The move was described as "entirely normal" by a British military spokesman in Kabul, although he would not say whether it was for the soldiers' own protection.

They made no inquiries before they started shooting

Reported conclusion of local investigator Colonel Zemary Fazil
Four other paras remain in Afghanistan but have been removed from the "theatre of operation", which the Ministry of Defence says is standard practice during an investigation.

The six soldiers have said they returned fire from a Kabul observation post after they were shot at in the early hours of Saturday morning.

But the family that came under fire say they were unarmed and were victims of an unprovoked attack, which killed one and injured four.

The British military and Afghan police both launched investigations.

Hamid intervention

According to The Times newspaper, a local police report contradicts the British soldiers' version of events.

With the incident threatening otherwise good relations between locals and the British-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf), interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai has intervened.

He said although events were unclear there was "some sort of incident of firing" in which one or two shots were fired at the peacekeepers' post.

Mohammad Esha
Mohammad Esha says his brother died in an unprovoked attack
But it is claimed that police investigator Colonel Zemary Fazil believes the British troops opened fire after spotting the car's lights during Kabul's night-time curfew.

Before the paras' firing nothing was heard by some of his own men stationed at the same building nor as he patrolled in the same area.

"I am absolutely certain that the only shooting had been from the Isaf position," The Times quoted him as saying.

"They made no attempt to find out what was going on. They made no inquiries before they started shooting."

Curfew defied

The British-led peacekeepers have so far been warmly welcomed in the Afghan capital but the "unfortunate" incident had undermined Afghans' faith in Isaf, the colonel added.

A British military spokesman in Kabul said he was aware of the reported police findings but could not comment further as the military investigation was still underway.

The family said they had defied the strict night time curfew (from 2130 local time) to take 21-year-old Faria Ishaq to hospital to give birth when they came under fire at about 0120 local time.

They say her brother in-law Amaun, 20, was killed outright. Her husband, Mohammed Ishaq, 25, her mother-in-law and a neighbour, who was driving, were all injured.

Faria Ishaq with her new-born baby (Reuters)
Faria Ishaq was being taken to hospital
Mr Ishaq said the family fled home where his wife gave birth before a joint patrol of peacekeepers and Afghan police arrived at first light.

The baby boy appeared to be healthy, he said.

"We did not have any weapons of any kind," he said, adding: "We did not hear any gunfire until we ourselves were shot."

The patrol found a car riddled with gunshots near the family's house.

Isaf spokesman Captain Graham Dunlop said the paras has "identified the firing point and they returned fire".

The same patrol had also found the dead man, he went on, a woman and baby and two other people in the house.

They were all taken to hospital for treatment for injuries and no weapons were found at the house, he said.

The BBC's Claire Marshall
"The soldiers claim they were fored upon"
The BBC's Adam Mynott
"This is entirely normal in these circumstances"
See also:

19 Feb 02 | South Asia
Shooting threatens Kabul stability
18 Feb 02 | South Asia
Afghan shooting row sparks inquiry
16 Feb 02 | South Asia
Farewell to murdered Afghan minister
15 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Straw caution on more troops
31 Jan 02 | UK Politics
UK cool on extra Afghan troops
07 Jan 02 | South Asia
Blair urges support for Afghanistan
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