Saturday, March 04, 2006
So when our soldiers get attacked, the tone of the media coverage is, how surprising! Like, how could they attack our guys? Don't they know we're just trying to help?
. . . Lieut. Trevor Greene was chatting with dozens of elders near his forward base in Gumbad when an Afghan villager pulled an axe with a 60-centimetre handle from inside his clothing. The villager, in his 20s, held the axe high over Greene's head and yelled "Allah Akbar" - God is Great - the signature call of an Islamist suicide attacker.
The man fulfilled his destiny. He delivered his nearly lethal blow and then died where he stood, his body riddled with bullets from Capt. Kevin Schamuhn and two of his fellow soldiers . . . . The notion the act was of a lone maniac quickly disappeared.
While villagers scattered in all directions, enemy small-arms fire broke out from across the river. Canadians and their Afghan allies returned fire. Then, as things calmed slightly, another man moved toward coalition forces and tossed a hand grenade.
The Afghans and Canadians returned fire again as the grenade exploded harmlessly. Schamuhn believes the man was hit but the grenade attacker scurried away in the mayhem.
As things calmed down, a U.S. Blackhawk helicopter whisked Greene away to a Canadian hospital at Kandahar Airfield. He remains there in serious condition, awaiting a plane ride to Germany and home.
The Afghans and Canadians went into the village to find answers. All they found were seven old men and some women and children.
"There were no fighting-age males there," said Schamuhn.
"The leaders we had been speaking to earlier had disappeared and all the young men that we were talking to had disappeared."
No villager would say who the dead attacker was.
The platoon from Company A of the Princess Patricia's Light Infantry brigade in Afghanistan was making a series of stops in small villages Saturday from their forward operating base 70 kilometres north of Kandahar.
Moving into rural areas is a key part of Canada's plan to bring security and reconstruction to Kandahar province.
Villagers in a meeting hours earlier welcomed them with blankets and bread and meats.
The meetings with local leaders are known as shura and are key to getting anything done in rural areas.
The fateful meeting was off to a good start when the
attacker struck, Schamuhn said.
The first hint of trouble could only be seen in the light of hindsight, he said. "About two or three minutes prior to the incident, all the children that were present were escorted away, about 20 to 30 metres away," Schamuhn recalled. "But none of us picked up on this, there was no weird feeling, no gut feeling that something was about to go down."
Schamuhn has grown to trust villagers through dozens of encounters. He and Greene had removed their helmets and set down their arms in a sign of respect and trust. "I'm sure I've shaken hands with some people who have plotted against us," he said.
"You can't tell."
Schamuhn said he had started to believe the oft-repeated Afghan contention that foreigners are causing all the trouble. He doesn't believe it now. "This guy, he was a local villager from this village who was coerced or persuaded by some outside force to do this against us," Schamuhn said. "We were completely vulnerable to them and they took complete advantage of that. There was a lot of people who knew what was about to happen."
Well, that would be because there's a war going on over there.
Didn't we already know this?
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