World

Canadian troops kill 2 Afghans riding motorcycle

Canadian troops in the volatile Panjwaii district west of Kandahar fired on a speeding motorcycle, killing an apparently unarmed driver and his passenger, officials said Friday.

Canadian troops in the volatile Panjwaii district west of Kandahar fired on a speeding motorcycle, killing an apparently unarmed driver and his passenger, officials said Friday.

The incident occurred Thursday evening during a shura, or community meeting, with local leaders near a mosque in the village of Pay-e-Moluk, according to Task Force Kandahar spokesman Maj. Vance White.

The motorcycle was carrying two "fighting aged" males and was travelling at high speed, showing intent to penetrate the security cordon, White said.

"Verbal and visual warnings were used and one aimed warning shot was fired close to the motorcycle to alert the driver to stop," he said.

"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."

Both the driver and passenger were wounded and taken for medical treatment to a Canadian patrol base, where they died 40 minutes later.

No weapons found on motorcycle riders

White said Canadian soldiers are trained to use their firearms as a last resort.

"In this instance, the lives of the other villagers participating in the shura were also endangered," he said.

The task force has directed the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service to confirm the identities of the two men. No weapons or explosive were found in their possession.

The incident is similar to one reported two months ago in the same region, when a young Afghan girl died after Canadian forces fired a warning shot at a motorcycle speeding towards them.

The driver in that incident did not heed signals to stop and the motorcycle changed direction and sped away after the shot was fired, military officials said. Moments later, the soldiers noticed a crowd gathering and discovered that a girl had been hit by the ricocheting bullet.

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

Civilian deaths cause tension

The Canadian military said at the time the behaviour of the motorcycle driver in the July incident was suspicious and could have been an attempt to test the patrol's perimeter.

Canadian and other NATO forces have been trying to convince civilians in southern Afghanistan that they are friendly, peaceful allies, patrolling villages in dangeroud regions like Panjwaii, which is known to have a significant Taliban presence.

But accidental deaths of civilians have strained relations with the Afghan people and U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal has ordered troops to limit air strikes to protect innocent Afghans.

Canadian soldiers were involved in another incident in July 2009, when they shot and killed an Afghan man in the city of Kandahar and wounded three others after the car the Afghans were in failed to heed orders to stop.

The car was speeding toward a team of troops who were defusing a roadside bomb, Canadian officials said.