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Tuesday, 19 February, 2002, 15:45 GMT
Afghans insist Paras not shot at
Early paratroop patrol of Kabul
The arrival of British troops was initially welcomed
Afghan police have said a British paratroop team which opened fire on a family taking a pregnant woman to hospital - killing one and injuring four - was not shot at first.

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

But the local police report, which is now with security officials in Kabul, contradicts the British soldiers' version of events.

Faria Ishaq with her new-born baby (Reuters)
Faria Ishaq was being taken to hospital
Two of the six soldiers are flying back to the UK on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning for questioning.

They will be questioned at their barracks in Colchester, Essex, by officers from the Royal Military Police, while other officers carry out an investigation at the scene.

The other four have been removed from the "theatre of operation" - a procedure which the Ministry of Defence describes as "entirely normal".

A senior Afghan officer involved in the investigation told the BBC the suggestion that shots had been fired at the soldiers first was "complete nonsense".

'Tragic mistake'

The officer told correspondent Adam Mynott, in Kabul, that Afghan police were on duty near the observation post and heard no shooting before the soldiers opened fire.

The officer, who did not want to be identified, said the incident was a "tragic mistake".

But he said the international security assistance force had prevented his men from going to the scene of the incident shortly after it happened.

He said he was reluctant to criticise the force because they were doing a good job for the country - but was not impressed by their "reluctance to uncover the truth".

Military investigation

The family said they had defied a night time curfew to drive 21-year-old Faria Ishaq to hospital to give birth when they came under fire at about 0120 local time.

Mohammad Ishaq
Mohammad Ishaq says his brother died in an unprovoked attack
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.

They believe the soldiers saw the lights of the car and heard the engine, and let off a hail of up to 60 bullets.

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.

But army sources in Kabul continue to say that the soldiers only fired because they believed they came under attack.

Revenge warning

The incident could threaten otherwise good relations between locals and the British-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf).

The MoD said the soldiers, from the second battalion of the parachute regiment, were not under arrest and were cooperating fully with the inquiry.

Observation tower with mountains behind
The soldiers opened fire from this observation tower
Isaf spokesman Captain Graham Dunlop told the AP news agency any legal action against the soldiers would be taken in Britain.

"Britain retains exclusive jurisdiction over the soldiers. If they need to be punished, they will be dealt with by us."

Mohammed Ishaq told reporters his family would take revenge unless the soldiers responsible were punished.

"They should be tried and punished in accordance to Sharia [Islamic] law," he told the AFP news agency from his hospital bed, where he was being treated for a hand injury.

"We want their blood in retaliation for the blood of our brother.

"If we kill someone else [from Isaf] that would be the same as if we killed those murderers - it wouldn't matter to us."

Amaun's uncle, Nasrullah Yaqobi, demanded compensation from Isaf and a trial of the troops involved, according to AFP.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Adam Mynott in Kabul
"Complete nonsense is how he described it"
The BBC's Claire Marshall
"The soldiers claim they were fored upon"
See also:

19 Feb 02 | South Asia
Paras in shooting row fly home
19 Feb 02 | South Asia
Shooting threatens Kabul stability
18 Feb 02 | South Asia
Afghan shooting row sparks inquiry
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