How US soldiers killed five members of a family in Paktia
Naveed, whose first birthday party turned into his family grief in Paktia

How US soldiers killed five members of a family in Paktia

It was the first birthday party of Naveed when a group of US soldiers attacked at his home in Paktia province in February 11, 2010.  Mohammad Dawood Sharabzoy, had invited a group of close friends and a circle of his former colleagues to celebrate the birth of his newly-born grandson, Naveed, when all of a sudden the sip and see party turned into grief.

Inside the house everyone was in a good party mood, enjoying live local music. Outside, a group of American forces were in search of killing Taliban target. That night, the US forces had surrounded Sharabzoy’s house, with a false intelligence, assuming that a group of Taliban militants were preparing a car bomb to hit the Gardez city, capital of Paktia province.

The party’s musician, accompanied by Ghaffar, Naveed’s father, gets out to the house complex to wash his face and hands. Ghaffar hurriedly gets back to his father, informing him that someone was pointing at them with laser. Sharabzoy moves to the yard of his house. Moments later, those gathering inside the house hear bullet firing.

All rush out in a hurried way and find Sharabzoy, a 51 years old local police commander, fallen on the ground. They take him back to the house and find him being hit with bullet in his chest.

Minutes later, Mohammad Zaher, Sharabzoy’s younger brother, takes a look outside of the house and see that American forces have besieged their house. “Don’t fire. This is the house of police commander,” he tells the American forces in English. Three female members of the family rush to stop Zaher of getting out but all of them get shot dead by the American forces positioned outside.

That night along with Zaher, 48, Bibi Saleha, 35, a pregnant woman who was Sharabzoy’s sister and mother of nine children, Bibi Sherin, 20, mother of four children, Bibi Gulalay, a 19 years old niece to Sharabzoy, who was newly engaged to an Afghan intelligence operative, were shot dead.

Mohammad Dawood Sharabzoy, 85, showing picture of his slain sons

February 11 of 2021 marks the 11th birthday of Naveed. Ever since, the family continues to break into sigh and lament as they recall the most tragic episode of their life. For them, their suffering brings more pain as they still see the Americans not only killed their dears but broke their promise for blood compensation.

Having realized that they had mistakenly killed innocent people, the American force made apology to Sharabzoy family.

Citing local officials of Paktia province, Mohammad Saber Sharabzoy, 38, a brother of the slain commander and husband of the slain Bibi Sherin, says that the US government has done nothing in regard to the deadly incident. As Saber detailed, months after the deadly incident several US military officials came to their house in a traditional Afghan way—bringing with them sheep, rice, and one million and 500,000 afghanis—just to offer their apology. In the presence of the local elders, the US military officials promised to insure the family, bring the perpetrators to justice and sponsor education of some members of the family in the US. “The people would always say you have US insurance whenever something wrong happens to us,” Saber says.

The family demands the Americans to give the name of the one who had given them false intelligence. The one who provided the Americans with wrong intelligence, Saber says, was perhaps a Taliban member or local rival of the family.

An Afghan military veteran, Sharabzoy served under successive Afghan governments. The immediate loss of five family members has left almost an unbearable trauma on Sharabzoy’s family. Saber is left with 28 orphans of his siblings. 10 months after the tragedy, he got married with a second wife but the loss of his first spouse still puts him in pain. “I would get too sensational when my wife was killed. It was my family, people, and friends who shared sympathy and healed my pains. I wouldn’t know even for one year whether we were dead or alive. In which world we are living?”

US military officer surrounded by local
security officials visiting Sharabzoy family to make apology for mistaken murder of five members of the family

Saber’s son Ashrafullah, who was eight years old when his mother was killed, is now a 6th grade student at a school. He would ask his father about his mother. His father retells him the whole story of the tragedy. Saber would tell Ashrafullah that the American soldiers blasted their gate and broke into their house after gunning down his uncle, mother, aunt, and cousin. Then, the US soldiers beat all male members of the family, forced them to stand by a wall, and then searched all corners of their house.

Then the Americans took Ghaffar, along with his six guests to their base in Sharan, capital city of Paktika, with 3,700,000 afghanis and four Kalashnikovs, which they found in their house. They were interrogated in a dark room.

The next day, Paktia residents took to the streets in protest, carrying the dead bodies on their shoulders. In the evening of that day, they buried five members of the family who were killed mistakenly in the American night raid. The US forces couldn’t find any evidence and documents regarding the family’s connection with the Taliban and handed over all the eight men to police department of Paktia province after three days investigation and interrogation. Then the local government took them to their homes. “God may diminish the Americans,” Ashrafullah says when he hears the story.

Foreign troops have been accused of war crimes since the start of their intervention in Afghanistan in 2001. In some cases they have either deliberately or mistakenly killed and wounded civilians. On November 09, 2020, the Australian Defense Force released findings of its four-year inquiry into misconduct of its forces revealing that Australian forces committed war crimes in Afghanistan. A total of 57 cases were probed and hundreds witnesses were interviewed. According to the report, 25 Australian elite forces were involved in murder of 39 Afghan civilians.

Sharabzoy children visiting family graveyard in Paktia

Describing the conduct of the Australian Special Forces as “shameful and deeply disturbing”, the chief of the ADF, General Angus Campbell, extended an apology to the Afghan government and people. Welcoming apology of the Australian government for the war crimes of Australian forces, Afghan senators asserted that the perpetrators of the war crimes should be punished according to international humanitarian laws, the Senate said in a statement issued on Sunday, November 22, 2020.

Earlier in March 2020, the International Criminal Court (ICC) ruled that prosecutors could open an official inquiry into war crimes allegedly committed by the Taliban, foreign troops, and Afghan forces in Afghanistan. Now the only hope for Sharabzoy’s family is that those foreign troops who committed war crimes, should be trialed. The experts, however, believe that the US cooperation with the ICC is unlikely since it’s neither a member to the ICC, nor have the will to cooperate.

For Sharabzoy’s family, nothing can compensate their huge loss. The elderly men and women of the family are now suffering a trauma of the deadly incident and many of their children have become deprived of getting education. Of this extended family, only Ashrafullah and Naveed are now attending school in their neighborhood. The older members have to work fulltime in order to earn a living for the broken family.

According to the traditional mindset dominant in many parts of Afghanistan, Naveed’s birth has brought a bad luck for the family. Naveed keeps quite when people reproach him, saying “you were jinx”. “I think he is innocent and a child. We have to leave the past and rebuild our lives,” Saber said.