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Afghans Burn NATO Trucks in Response to Killing of 3 Civilians

by Joshua Partlow

KABUL -- Afghan protesters torched NATO supply vehicles in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, hours after allegations emerged that U.S. and Afghan troops had killed three civilians, including two brothers, in their home.

Afghan security forces stand guard near trucks burned by countrymen after reports of the civilian deaths. (Mohammed Obaid Ormur/associated Press) The demonstration occurred in Logar province after a nighttime joint patrol of U.S. Special Operations forces and Afghan soldiers fatally shot three people and arrested two others. NATO officials said the men were insurgents who had displayed "hostile intent." One of those captured was a low-level Taliban commander who planned suicide bombings, they said.

But after daybreak, more than 100 people gathered on a main road in Logar to protest the killings and the death in a separate incident of an Islamic scholar, according to Afghan officials. Military operations at night are deeply unpopular, and Afghan officials have called for them to stop. The furious crowd blocked traffic and set fire to at least 10 fuel tankers using hand grenades, said the provincial police chief, Ghulam Mustafa Moisini.

"If they were insurgents, why are the people so angry?" asked provincial government spokesman Din Mohammad Darwish.

A relative of the slain men, Abdul Ghani, said that dozens of Afghan and U.S. soldiers appeared at his family's home about 2 a.m. When they entered, a chaotic scene ensued, and two of his brothers, Haji Abdul Aziz and Abdul Waqil, were shot and killed. Two other brothers, Abdul Wahid and Abdul Hai, were arrested, he said.

Ghani said that his brothers work as shopkeepers and have no links to the insurgency.

"Not only the families of the victims hate the U.S. forces," he said. "Everyone is turning against them."

The police chief, however, corroborated the NATO claims that the men killed and captured were insurgents. The joint patrol collected weapons, including AK-47s and pistols, along with Pakistani passports, he said. The people knew this, but protested anyway, Moisini said, a sign of either grass-roots support for the Taliban or intimidation by the insurgents.

"Whether they are insurgents or civilians, the people go and protest," he said.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan on Sunday, a man walked into a crowded market and exploded himself, killing at least two people and wounding more than 10 others in Zabul province.

The bombing did not appear to target any foreign or military target, said Nazir Ali Wahidi, the Afghan intelligence chief in the province.

"The terrorists just want to sow fear and panic among the people," he said. "That's their main goal."

Special correspondent Javed Hamdard contributed to this report.

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