Jeremy Kelly
September 9, 2011

Nato has admitted accidentally shooting dead a BBC journalist in Afghanistan during a battle against insurgents after mistaking him for a suicide bomber.

Military officials met close relatives of Omaid Khpalwak on Thursday and apologised for their “mistake” during an operation against a squad of insurgents, who had attacked a police command post.

Khpalwak, who was hiding in fear during the attack and spoke good English, was shot 11 times. His brother Jawid, who always maintained that his brother was killed by Nato forces, said his family remained angry at Nato’s actions on the day.

“They thought he was a suicide bomber, but how?” Jawid asked. “He spoke English and would have been showing his press card.”

The Nato-led International Security Assistance Force issued a statement on Thursday expressing its condolences for the killing but said its forces on the day complied with the laws of armed conflict and had acted reasonably.

It released a two-page summary of its investigation into the incident on 28 July that said US forces were responding to an attack by insurgents on a police command post. After killing all the insurgents, US forces entered the building of the RTA compound where the iattack had started when two more suicide vests exploded. Gunfire was heard from the area.

The summary says a US soldier on overwatch later noticed a male in the same area of the explosions and gunfire, and fired at him but missed. Another soldier was directed to clear the area and came across “a young male with a beard with something clinched in one of his fists and reaching for something on his person”.

The soldier assumed he was a suicide bomber and was trying to detonate his device and shot him dead, the report says, adding the gunfire from the area appeared to have been fired by other US soldiers.

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