Father of children killed by Canadian soldiers threatened by Taliban
The father of two children accidentally killed by Canadian troops in Afghanistan says he has been forced to flee his home in the Panjwaii district after being threatened by the Taliban.
Ruzi Mohammed says he was threatened by insurgents for speaking with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Canadians from the Provincial Reconstruction Team about compensation for the mistaken shooting last July.
Now jobless and living in a small rented house in Kandahar city for 4,000 afghanis, or $80 US a month, the frustrated 31-year-old said he's still anxiously awaiting compensation.
"Karzai said 'Sorry' on behalf of Canadians and promised me that he will send me to pilgrimage and provide me a house in Kandahar city, but I'm still waiting for that," he said.
"Canadians promised me compensation but I'm not sure what the amount is."
Told it could take four weeks for the cash to flow, Mohammed said he needs it sooner.
"If Canadians will not support me now, I am compelled to join the Taliban and to take revenge for my two innocent children," he said.
"Before, I was drilling to feed my family and now I am jobless. I don't have other children. I had two children and they are no more."
Canadian Forces spokesman Maj. Jay Janzen said the compensation process is slow for Mohammed's own safety.
Because handing him a pile of cash would make him a target for theft or worse, officials from the Provincial Reconstruction Team helped Mohammed open a bank account and are in the process of depositing funds.
"We don't want a situation where we give a local Afghan a large amount of cash and send him on his way," Janzen said, adding the military doesn't release details about the amount of compensation.
"It's just not a prudent thing to do."
Janzen said Mohammed was given a first instalment to open the bank account and that a test payment was wired to him after he provided the military with his new banking information. The third instalment, he said, is now being processed.
"We're told this being Afghanistan, these things can take time to make their way through the system," he said, adding a fourth and final payment will be issued after this one has cleared.
But the process is not just financial, he added. Meeting with him is also an opportunity to express remorse for what's happened.
"It's about making amends and coming to terms with people and making the best of a tragic situation," he said.
Janzen refused to elaborate on the reception Canadian officials got from Mohammed, but said discussing the situation was obviously a difficult thing for him.
While he appeared to understand Canada's purpose in Afghanistan, Mohammed's anger was still evident during an interview with the Canadian Press.
"Canadians must be very careful while living in Kandahar. They must respect our women and must love our children, because basically, they have come to help poor Afghans, not to shoot them," he said.
"It hurts me and my wife still whenever we remember our beautiful and innocent children."
Mohammed's four-year-old daughter Maraka and two-year-old son Tor Jan were gunned down when the vehicle in which they were riding failed to pull over for a passing Canadian military convoy.
Fearing a possible suicide attack, soldiers opened fire with a 25-millimetre cannon when the vehicle came within 10 metres of them despite repeated hand gestures and audio warnings to stop.
An investigation by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service into the incident is nearly complete and the results are expected to be released within days.
Human Rights Watch says 434 civilians were killed in Afghanistan by coalition air strikes and ground fire in 2007. In the same year, 950 civilians were killed by insurgents, according to the New York-based organization.
Civilian deaths have become a mounting concern that has threatened the Afghan government's relationship with coalition forces. This grew worse in recent weeks after a massive U.S. air strike in Herat province killed 90 civilians including 60 women and children.