AN Afghan man is dead and relations between Australian troops and local villagers have soured after a violent protest by several hundred men sparked by a rumour that Diggers were burning copies of the Koran. The soldiers were conducting a regular burn off of rubbish and documents in a pit outside the secure blast walls of forward operating base Mirwais in the Chora Valley north of the main base at Tarin Kowt on Thursday when all hell broke loose.
An angry mob was on the rampage and raining rocks down on the Diggers as they retreated back into the base. Somehow word got around the village that troops were burning copies of the Islamic holy book the Koran.
- Gee, I wonder where the local media people might have been....?
"They were doing a burn in the pit and the suggestion spread that they were burning the Koran," a source told the Herald Sun. The dispute, just two days before local parliamentary elections, escalated from rock-throwing when a man brandishing an AK-47 assault rifle allegedly aimed the weapon at troops in a guard tower.
An Afghan soldier attached to Australian forces responded according to the rules of engagement - which allow "maximum force" to be employed if a weapon is aimed at them - and shot the protester.
Exactly right. Aim a weapon at me and you go to your 72 rancid rabid goats
The gunman was taken away before troops could check his condition, but according to sources he died from his wounds.No soldiers were injured in the melee. According to intelligence reports the protest was sparked by the high-profile plan by American pastor Terry Jones to burn copies of the Koran outside his church on the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
- The plan that was later abandoned and is now a non issue?
Jones, from Gainesville, Florida, backed away but was unrepentant yesterday saying he had no "conviction from God to repent".
Burn it, Pastor, with my blessings.
The Chora Valley has been a hotbed of insurgent activity and during a visit in April last year then Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon was ordered by his security detail to don body armour at Buman forward base just down the valley from Mirwais, after a local fighter threatened to shoot the minister. It is believed that experts regarded the threat as real and he was whisked out of the base on a Chinook helicopter.
Uh no...they didnt want to do that. No one in their right mind pisses off
Mirwais is also known as Fort Locke and was named after dead SAS Sergeant Matthew Locke and is 500m from the village of Chora. It is the biggest Australian base outside Camp Russell at Tarin Kowt. The Herald Sun visited Mirwais, which has guard towers at each corner, twice last year. Two days before national elections the local police chief and several of his men were killed by a suicide bomber.
Several locals wounded in Thursday's attack were treated by medics at Mirwais, who included Private Jacqui de Gelder, the sister of Sydney-based Navy shark attack victim Paul de Gelder. Meanwhile, new Defence Minister Stephen Smith yesterday welcomed the prospect of a parliamentary debate on Australia's involvement in Afghanistan. "I think that's a very important thing to do when Australian troops are committed overseas particularly in a theatre of war," he said.