UK pays Afghan civilians over deaths, injuries

AP News
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Posted: Mar 29, 2011 7:54 AM
UK pays Afghan civilians over deaths, injuries

Britain's defense ministry paid out 1.3 million pounds (US$2.1 million) last year in compensation to hundreds of Afghan civilians for deaths, injuries and damage to homes, data published Tuesday reveals.

The figures obtained by the Guardian newspaper under freedom of information laws show that Britain paid out in 951 cases of property damage, injury or death during 2010, while 409 applications for compensation were rejected.

The average payment was just over 2,000 pounds ($3,200) _ often far below the amounts demanded.

The summaries of the claims show the disruptions of war to local people _ "267 trees cut down for force protection"; "claims Warthog (armored vehicle) damaged crops."

Others convey human tragedies in short, stark terms. One reads: "Two brothers and two sons killed by hellfire (missile) strike." Another reads: "Compound destroyed. Mother and sister killed."

Among the lowest payments for a death was an offer of $875 over the death of a girl killed following a rocket attack in the Nad-e-Ali district of the southern Helmand province.

The Ministry of Defense said payments were made in most cases as a goodwill gesture, not as recognition of legal liability.

Previous figures showed Britain paid out 1.42 million pounds ($2.3 million) between April 2009 and March 2010.

Britain has about 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, most in Helmand, which has seen heavy fighting between NATO-led forces and Taliban insurgents.

The U.S. military and other members of the NATO-led force regularly make condolence payments to families of civilians accidentally killed.

Guidelines for U.S. Army units in Helmand last year foresaw $1,500-$2,500 to compensate the death of a child or an adult.