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Afghan War Takes Toll on Civilians

Independent Television News special correspondent Nima Elbagir reports from a hospital in Kandahar, in the south of Afghanistan, on the toll that war has taken on the nation's civilian population.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Now, a look at the toll of the Afghan war on civilians. Special correspondent Nima Elbagir spent a year at a 350-bed hospital in Kandahar. It serves all of southern Afghanistan, including the war-torn Helmand province. Elbagir has reported for Independent Television News, among other news organizations.

  • A warning:

    Some viewers may find the images in this story very disturbing.

  • NIMA ELBAGIR:

    It's Thursday, and the morning rush has started. Already several cars have pulled up outside Mirwais Hospital's emergency unit here in Kandahar.

    This one brought Haseena and her sister. They were playing outside their home when they were hit by a driver swerving to avoid a coalition convoy. The convoy never stopped. Passersby brought them here.

    In the week we've spent at Mirwais Hospital, there's been a constant flood of civilian casualties, and not just here. Throughout Afghanistan, this summer is shaping up to be the deadliest for civilians since the conflict began.

    While Operation Panther's Claw has been trying to push the Taliban out of their strongholds in southern Afghanistan, the injured civilians have been flooding here.

    We came to Mirwais in the last week of July, a month into the offensive, to see what life has been like for the people caught in the crossfire. This is the intensive care unit, the ICU where the most critical patients are brought. They're mainly war-wounded.

    DR. DAOUD FARHAAD, director, Mirwais Hospital: He's from yesterday, from gunshot wound, from one of the districts of Kandahar.

  • NIMA ELBAGIR:

    Is it always this full?

  • DR. DAOUD FARHAAD:

    Yes, always bed is full.

  • NIMA ELBAGIR:

    Civilian casualties in Afghanistan have become the major operational issue for British and U.S. forces. Soldiers have been ordered to show restraint if there is even the slightest risk of a civilian presence.

    But tell that to this man. On the night of July 16th, Hajj Naimutallah says he and his family were asleep in their home in Shah Wali Kot district, north of Kandahar City. They were woken by a coalition attack on his village.

  • AFGHAN MAN (through translator):

    It was 10 o'clock at night when I woke up and the helicopters were bombarding. So the children and my wife ran outside their rooms, and they were fired on by the helicopters. And I was not with my family at that time, and that's why I survived. When I reached them, everyone had been injured. And then the helicopters fired another bomb. During the last strike, I was also injured.

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