Wednesday, 5 July 2017

OMAR KHADR: Was he really a terrorist? (Part One)                                         

This question is not an easy question to answer. As you read through this article, you can answer that question for yourself. But first, I will give you this man’s background. At present, he will be 31 years of age in this upcoming September.  I will refer to him as Omar throughout this article.

Omar being brought up as a child

Omar was born in Toronto on September 14th, 1986, to Ahmed Khadr and Maha el-Samnah who were Egyptian and Palestinian immigrants who moved to Canada and later became naturalized Canadian citizens. Khadr has six siblings.

Omar’s family had previously moved to Peshawar, Pakistan in 1985, where his father worked for charities helping Afghan refugees. Omar spent his childhood moving back and forth between Canada and Pakistan. 

In 1992, Omar’s father was severely injured while in Logar, Afghanistan. His family moved with him for a time back to Toronto so he could recuperate. After the move, Omar became hypersensitive to the tension that was in the family.

Enrolled at ISNA Elementary School for Grade 1, Omar's teachers described him as “very smart, very eager and very polite.”

After the family's return to Pakistan, in 1995 Omar’s father, Ahmed Khadr, was arrested in Pakistan following the Ayman al-Zawahiri's bombing of the Egyptian embassy there. He was accused of financially aiding the conspirators responsible for the bombing. After Ahmed was hospitalized after engaging in a hunger strike, 9-year-old Omar spent every night sleeping on the floor beside his father's bed until his father's release a year later for lack of evidence of his role in the bombing.

In 1996, Khadr's father moved his family to Jalalabad, Afghanistan where he then worked for a  Non Government Organization.

In early 2002, the youth was living in Waziristan with his mother and younger sister. He took up beading his mother's clothes as a hobby.[14] At one point, he was forced to wear a burqa and disguise himself as a girl to avoid scrutiny, an act that upset him.[14] When his father returned, Omar asked to be allowed to stay at a group home for young men, despite his mother's protests. His father agreed, and a month later allowed Omar to accompany a group of Arabs associated with  Abu Laith al-Libi, who had been collaborating with al-Qaeda and the Taliban that which are both terrorist groups in Afghanistan. He needed a Pashto translator during their stay in Khost.  This was Omar’s first experience being in the presence of terrorists. The then 15-year-old Khadr promised to check in regularly with his mother on occasion.        

In 2002, Abu Laith al-Libi approached Omar’s father Ahmed Khadr about letting the 15-year-old Omar serve as a translator for some Arab "visitors" in the region.

When a gun-battle resulted in the young translator being sent to Guantanamo Bay, al-Libi tried to placate the family with gifts and apologies, but Omar’s father remained furious and refused to associate with al-Libi, whom he blamed for not taking proper care of his son, Omar. On January 31, 2008, Abu Laith al-Libi was reported to have been killed by a targeted killing drone attack from an unmanned CIA Predator drone, either late Monday, January 28, or early Tuesday, January 29, 2008.

The battle Omar was involved in

Beginning in February 2002, a team of American soldiers were using the abandoned Soviet airbase in Khost, Afghanistan, as an intelligence-gathering outpost, where they tried to blend in and gain the trust of the local community.

In the early morning of July 27, 2002, a team made up of the 19th  Special Forces Group, the 505th  Infantry Regiment and a militia of approximately twenty Afghan fighters loyal to the warlord Pacha Khan Zadran and led by his brother Kamal, had been sent from the airbase on a reconnaissance mission. The US forces' search turned up no evidence against the occupants of a house they checked out.

While the US soldiers were at the house, a report came in that a monitored satellite phone had just been used 300–600 metres from the group's location. Seven soldiers were sent to investigate the site of the phone call. Led by Major Randy Watt, the group included  Captain Mike Silver, Sgt. Christopher SpeerLayne Morris and Master Sgt. Scotty Hansen, the latter three from the 19th  Special Forces Group; Specialist, Christopher J. Vedvick from the 505th  and his fire team.

The men reached a residential complex with earthen huts and a granary surrounded by a 10-foot (3.0 m) stone wall, with a green metal gate approximately 100 metres from the main hut. They saw children playing around the buildings and an old man sleeping under a nearby tree. Seeing five men he described as "well-dressed," sitting around a fire in the main residence, with AK-47s visible in the room, Morris later said that he either approached and told the occupants to open the front door or that he stayed out of sight, returned to his men and set up a perimeter around the complex.

Either way, the team waited 45 minutes for support from the soldiers searching the first residence. At one point, Morris chided the soldiers from the 82nd for setting up a defensive perimeter with their backs to the house, rather than covering the house.                

A crowd of approximately 100 local Afghans had gathered around the area to watch the incident unfold. An Afghan militiaman was sent toward the house to demand the surrender of the occupants, but he was forced to retreat under gunfire from the Afghan compound.

Reinforcements from the 3rd Platoon of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion of the 505th Infantry Regiment arrived under the command of Captain Christopher W. Cirino, bringing the total number of Americans and Afghan militia to about fifty armed men.

Two of Zadran's militia were sent into the compound to speak with the residents and after talking to the residents, they then returned to the US position and reported that the men in the compound claimed to be Pashtun villagers. The Americans told them to return and say the Americans wanted to search their house regardless of their affiliation. Upon hearing this, the occupants of the hut opened fire, shooting both militiamen.

Supposedly several women fled the huts and ran away, while the occupants began throwing grenades at the American troops, with intermittent rifle fire. After the firefight, one of the soldiers contradicted this, saying that only one woman and one child were present, and both were detained by US forces after exiting the huts.

Morris and Captain Mike Silver took up positions outside the stone wall, when Morris fell back into Silver, with a cut above his right eye and shrapnel embedded in his nose. Both Silver and Morris first thought the wound was due to Morris's rifle malfunctioning, but it was later attributed to an unseen grenade that was thrown by an Afgan.  In an alternate account, Morris has said that he was inside the compound and hiding behind the granary, preparing to fire a grenade into a wall of the house, when he was shot. Morris was dragged a safe distance from the action, and was shortly after joined by Spc. Michael Rewakowski, Pfc. Brian Worth and Spc. Christopher J. Vedvick, who had also been wounded by the grenade attacks.

At 9:10 in the morning, they sent a request for MedEvac to the 57th Medical Detachment. Ten minutes later, a pair of UH-60s were deployed with AH-64 Apaches as escort. Arriving at the scene, the Apaches strafed the compound with cannon and rocket fire, while the medical helicopters remained 12 miles (19 km) from the ongoing firefight.  The helicopters landed at the battle scene at 10:28 to load the wounded aboard.  A pair of A-10 Warthogs warplanes performed gun runs and dropped 500lb bombs on the compound.

At this point, a five-vehicle convoy of ground reinforcements arrived, bringing the number of troops to approximately 100. Two of these vehicles were subsequently damaged beyond use by the Afghan militants. Ten minutes later, the MedEvac left for Bagram Airbase and planes arrived, bombing the houses along with the helicopters.  Meanwhile the MedEvac reached Bagram Airfield at 1130 am.

Unaware that Omar and a militant had survived the bombing, the ground forces sent a team consisting of, Silver, Speer and three Delta Force soldiers through a hole in the south side of the wall.

The team began picking their way over dead animals and the bodies of three fighters. According to Silver's 2007 telling of the event, he heard a sound "like a gunshot", and saw the three Delta Force soldiers duck; a grenade went by them and exploded near Speer at the rear of the group, The grenade killed Speer. "wearing Afghan garb and helmetless, Silver reported that although he didn't hear any gunfire, the dust from the north side of the complex led him to believe that the team was under fire from a shooter between the house and barn. He reported that a grenade was  lobbed  over the wall that led to the alley and landed 30–50 metres from the alley opening. Running towards the alley to escape the grenade, Silver  fired a dozen M4 Carbine rounds into the alley as he ran past, although he couldn't see anything due to dust clouds. Crouching at the southeast entrance to the alleyway, he  could see a man with a holstered pistol and two chest wounds moving on the ground next to an AK-47. From his position, Silver fired a single shot into the man's head, killing him. When the dust cleared, Silver saw Omar crouched on his knees facing away from the action and wounded by shrapnel (it had just permanently blinded his left eye);  Silver then shot the 15-year-old youth twice in his back.

Khadr was given on-site medical attention, during which time he repeatedly asked the medics to kill him, thereby surprising them with his English. An officer present later recorded in his diary that he was about to tell a private to kill the badly wounded Khadr, when Delta Force soldiers ordered them not to harm the prisoner. He was loaded aboard a CH-47 helicopter and flown to Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan, losing consciousness aboard the flight.

The unconscious Khadr was airlifted to receive medical attention at Bagram. After he regained consciousness approximately a week later, the interrogations began. He remained stretcher-bound for several weeks. Col. Marjorie Mosier operated on his eyes after his arrival,[  though fellow detainee Rhuhel Ahmed later said that Khadr had been denied other forms of surgery to save his eyesight as punishment for not giving interrogators the answers they sought. His requests for darkened sunglasses to protect his failing eyesight were denied for state security reasons. Why would denying him sunglasses have an effect on the security of the base? I think the refusal was a means of extending his punishment for the death of Sgt. Christopher Speer.

Omar Khadr was going to suffer far more after he was sent to the American prison at Guantanamo Bay which is located at the south end of Cuba.

Part Two will explain what life was like while Omar Khadr was a prisoner in that prison for terrorists. 

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