Afghan, US Forces Shoot, Wound Five Civilians: NATO

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Agence France-Presse

Afghan, US Forces Shoot, Wound Five Civilians: NATO

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US and Afghan troops in Helmand Province. Five Afghan civilians were shot and wounded by US and Afghan troops outside a military base in a restive area of the war-torn country, NATO reports.(AFP/Getty)

KABUL - Five Afghan civilians were shot and wounded by US and Afghan
troops outside a military base in a restive area of the war-torn
country, NATO said Friday, also reporting the death of an American
soldier.

The incident involving the civilians took place in the
Garmsir district of Helmand province on Wednesday, NATO's International
Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement -- where a violent
demonstration took place a day earlier.

An ISAF spokesman said
warning shots were fired as a crowd of up to 400 people gathered
outside the gate of a military base, Combat Outpost Sher.

On
Tuesday seven people were killed during a demonstration sparked by
rumours that foreign soldiers had desecrated a Koran in an operation
the previous day, officials said earlier this week.

Referring to the Wednesday incident, Lieutenant Todd Breasseale told AFP: "The five Afghan civilians were wounded by bullets."

"A
combined ISAF and ANA (Afghan National Army) force was outside the
outpost. In the crowd, five or six individuals were threatening ISAF
and ANA soldiers," he said.

"There were warning shots and the five or six individuals that were an imminent threat were targeted," he added.

In its statement, ISAF said a crowd of between 200 and 400 people were told to keep their distance from the gate of the base.

"However, a number of civilians in the crowd disregarded instructions, resulting in forces firing warning shots.

"Deliberative
escalation of force procedures were followed, but one individual
continued to ignore instructions, striking members of the combined
force with a stick.

"ISAF forces medically evacuated five wounded civilians to the nearby Forward Operating Base Dwyer treatment facility," it said.

A
government investigation team looking into the rumours that foreign
soldiers had desecrated a Koran found they had been spread by Taliban
operatives and were unfounded.

But during the demonstration
Tuesday shooting broke out and seven people -- six civilians and an
Afghan intelligence official -- were killed.

There was nothing in
the ISAF statement Friday to indicate what had sparked the
demonstration that led to the shootings on Wednesday.

The
Taliban, who have a heavy presence in Helmand province, often whip up
resentment against foreign forces deployed to fight them.

There are 113,000 international troops fighting the insurgents, with another 40,000 being deployed this year.

Civilian
casualties are a sensitive issue among Afghans, and are often seized on
by President Hamid Karzai to bolster support for his government.

A
UN report released this week said civilian casualties rose 14 percent
last year over 2008 but the overwhelming majority, 67 percent, were in
Taliban attacks.

NATO also reported Friday that a US soldier had
been killed by the type of crude bomb used by Taliban militants in
their war against the Kabul government.

"An ISAF service member
from the United States was killed today (Thursday) in southern
Afghanistan as the result of an IED strike," said a statement from
ISAF, referring to an improvised explosive device.

The death
brings to 23 the number of foreign soldiers to have been killed in
Afghanistan so far this year, according to an AFP count based on a
tally kept by independent website icasualties.org.

Elsewhere,
a roadside bomb that exploded beneath a car on Friday killed four
children aged two to 14 years old and a woman in the Spin Boldak
district of Kandahar, the commander of the border police General Abdul
Razik, told AFP.

ISAF also reported a separate incident in
neighbouring Kandahar province in which two people were killed by
soldiers who had been targeted by a remote-control bomb while on patrol.

A
rocket exploded in central Kabul Friday evening, the head of the
capital's criminal investigation bureau told AFP, but he said there
were no casualties.

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