More anger, apologies over shooting of 2 men in Afghanstan's Khost

By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, April 21, 2010; 7:21 PM

KABUL -- NATO's acknowledgment Wednesday that the unarmed young men shot to death two days earlier in Khost province were not "known insurgents," as previously alleged, has prompted another military apology and fueled anger over civilian casualties.

The shooting of two brothers and two cousins driving home from a volleyball game came just a week after U.S. soldiers shot up a passenger bus in Kandahar and killed four civilians. In both cases, soldiers apparently -- and mistakenly -- thought that approaching vehicles represented a threat.

NATO officials said that fingerprints of two of the men killed in Khost had shown up in an insurgent biometric database but that they later decided the data might not be relevant.

The incidents have added to the perception among some Afghans that NATO convoys, rather than protecting them, pose a real danger. Rahmatullah Rahmat, a judge in Khost and father of two of the slain teenagers, said the soldiers behaved like criminals and should be prosecuted.

Afghan officials say U.S. military commanders must keep soldiers from firing on civilians even if it means accepting greater risk, because each new killing sours public opinion about the U.S. presence. "We can't continue doing business as usual," one senior Afghan official said.

NATO said it plans to dispatch training teams to make sure soldiers learn from these incidents.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company