Dutch army veteran says civilians may have been killed in Afghan incident

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The defence ministry has told Trouw it is investigating claims made by a Dutch army veteran, who says he and his unit may have been involved in killing civilians in Uruzgan in 2007.

Servie Holzken told Trouw in an interview on Wednesday that his unit shot at houses in the Afghan province and that civilians could have died.

‘I was ordered to open fire on the side of the nearest qala (Afghan house), to see if we got a reaction via the walkie talkie,’ he said. ‘But it went wrong because the machine gun had a defect and I fired at a window, right through the qala.’

Holzken said he was told to open fire again at a bigger qala further away and had seen five or six people who were unarmed. ‘The next command was “fire”, in other words, take out those people,’ he said. ‘If I saw a head go up or any movement, I fired. It was only later I realised how wrong this was.’


The defence ministry now says it has been in touch with the public prosecution department about the claims. ‘The fact that an Uruzgan veteran raises this 13 years later, requires careful attention, particularly given the nature of the report,’ the ministry told the paper.

Dutch soldiers were active in Uruzgan as part of the peacekeeping and rebuilding efforts between 2006 and 2010. Some 1,800 Dutch soldiers and officials were involved at any one time.

The Dutch were widely praised at the time for their approach to the Afghan mission, in particular for their people-orientated strategy and focus on building trust between troops and locals.

Trouw says the defence ministry is considering establishing a hotline where other veterans can report incidents.

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