Afghan girl's death by stray Canadian bullet angers family

The family of an Afghan girl killed by a warning shot apparently fired by a Canadian soldier has expressed anger and confusion over her death.

Child killed by ricocheting warning shot to speeding motorbike

The family of an Afghan girl killed by a warning shot apparently fired by a Canadian soldier has expressed anger and confusion over her death.

The grandfather of a girl accidentally killed in Afghanistan by a Canadian warning shot speaks with the CBC. ((CBC))
CBC News tracked down the girl's family as they gathered for her funeral in a small village in the volatile Panjwaii district of Kandahar province.

Earlier this week, Canadian soldiers had dismounted from a convoy in the district when a motorcycle came speeding toward them. According to the military, when the driver did not heed signals to stop, a warning shot was fired and the motorcycle changed direction and sped away.

Moments later, the soldiers noticed a crowd gathering and discovered that a girl, who was seven or eight years old, had been hit with the ricocheting bullet.

The girl, whose name was Parwana, never had her picture taken or her birthdate recorded.

Her grandfather, Habibulla, a farmer, told CBC News he was sitting in a shop when he heard about the shooting. He said he ran to see a soldier applying bandages to her bleeding body.

He said he asked the soldier, "Why did you shoot her? Is she al-Qaeda? Is she Taliban?"

He said he feels "powerless" and that his family doesn’t know whether the foreigners in his land are friends or enemies.

The incident is not the first time Canadian soldiers have opened fire on fast-approaching vehicles.

Last Friday, Canadian soldiers shot and killed an Afghan man in the city of Kandahar and wounded three others after the car they were in failed to heed orders to stop as it sped toward a team of troops who were defusing a roadside bomb.

'Tragic incident'

NATO forces have been trying to convince people in southern Afghanistan that they are friendly, peaceful allies.

But throughout the country, drivers have been told that if they approach a NATO convoy at high speeds or fail to stop when commanded, they take their life in their own hands, the CBC's James Murray said from Kandahar province.

Soldiers will give the driver visual warnings, shouts and hand signals, a warning shot, and then, fearing a suicide bomber attack, they will open fire.

Maj. Mario Couture, spokesman for the Canadian Forces in Kandahar, called it a "tragic incident" that takes its toll on everyone.

"It's extremely difficult, not only for the families who have lost their child, but also difficult for all of us who are definitely determined to do good in Afghanistan," Couture said.

The Canadian military has said the behaviour of the motorcycle driver at the scene of the girl's death was suspicious and could have been an attempt to test the patrol's perimeter.

The driver of the motorbike could have been attempting to provoke a response in the hopes of causing civilian casualties to drive a wedge between coalition forces and the Afghan people, Couture said.

With files from James Murray