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Southern Afghanistan: British tanks slaughter civilians in Sangin, in Helmand province

Lashkar Gah, Thursday 21 August. A newborn baby, four children, a girl and four women, one of them pregnant. All were hit by shrapnel from the missiles that rained on their house during a wedding reception, and were admitted on Thursday morning to Emergency’s Surgical Centre in Lashkar Gah. Relatives of the victims, whose reports detail a non-specified but substantial number of deaths, state: "It was done by British soldiers". Report by an Emergency logistician.

Written for us by
Emanuele Nannini
scene da un matrimonio afganoThis is the best period of the year for tying the knot, the oppressive heat has passed and the flowers are once again brightening the landscape. The party begins on Wednesday and continues without interruption for three days; the men outside and the women and children inside, strictly separate. It is necessary to hurry: soon it will be Ramadan.
In a country at war, you have to do without some of the local customs such as firing rifles into the air, to avoid becoming an easy target, and the festivities can begin.

It is 9:30 in Sangin, Helmand province, in the south of Afghanistan. Something has gone wrong: the precautions weren’t enough; the comings and goings of cars and motorbikes have attracted attention. “There was a patrol of British tanks – recounts an eye-witness – the first missile hit a car that was coming out of the house of the wedding party, the rest were aimed at the house where the women and children were”.

Paziente all'ospedale di Lashkargah, aghanistan 2007There is no time to think or look back, the first car with two children and a woman leaves for Lashkar Gah, racing against time.
After a three-hour journey, Mullah Baseer arrives at the hospital run by Emergency: his six-month-pregnant wife, three-year-old daughter and niece are in critical condition, but they will survive. The white party-robes are covered in bloodstains; what he has seen is written all over his face. “There were the bodies of three children who were blown to pieces, their legs were in one place and their torsos in another. I ran away too fast to realize what was happening and I didn’t want to see anything else”, he relates, stroking his long white beard.
Sabawoon, a cousin of the groom, arrives just afterwards in another car ferrying four injured people. The story he tells and the tragedy in his eyes are the same: “The British were two kilometres away from the wedding and the missiles arrived in rapid succession, there was no time to run and us men outside the house couldn’t do anything to save our wives and children”. Arriving at the hospital with him were two of the bride’s aunts, a three-year-old boy and a baby of a few months. They raced as fast as they could against time. Sabawoon soon learns that one aunt, who was immediately transferred to the operating theatre, will pull through.
Nell'ospedale di Emergency a LashkargahThe news travels quickly; there is no time for questions before the next car arrives at the gate. Wadaan is driving: he is Mullah Baseer’s son. He is bringing two more girls and Bakhtawara, the groom’s mother. They are late, they had to make a difficult decision: instead of racing directly to the hospital in Lashkar Gah, they stopped in a small clinic in Grishk, an hour away from the hospital. The time lost proved fatal: the mother of the groom dies a few minutes after entering the emergency room.
Outside the hospital, Bakhtawar, Ghamay and Wadaan are too exhausted to give up hope and weep; together they bring away the corpse of Bakhtawara, still dressed for the party.
The places and the facts described by the protagonists have been faithfully reported. The names of the witnesses have been changed to protect their identity.