Afghans Angry at 'Civilian Deaths'

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Al Jazeera English

Afghans Angry at 'Civilian Deaths'

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Local residents take out a procession as they accuse NATO forces of killing civilians in an overnight raid, at Surkh Rod, Afghanistan, Friday, May 14, 2010. More than 500 people poured into the streets in the Surkh Rod district of Nangahar province to protest the raid by international forces that they claim killed at least nine civilians. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

One person has been shot dead by police as
hundreds of protesters took to the streets in eastern Afghanistan,
accusing Nato-led forces of killing civilians during an overnight raid
near the city of Jalalabad. 

Angry Afghans set fire to tyres and
blocked roads in the Surkh Road district of Nangahar province on Friday,
demanding an explanation for the deaths.

Witnesses told Al
Jazeera that between nine and 15 civilians had been killed in the Nato
attack.  

Mohammed Arish, a government administrator in
Surkh Rod, said a father and his four sons and four members of another
family were among the dead.

"They are farmers. They are innocent. They are not insurgents or
militants," Arish told The Associated Press by phone.

Arish said the protesters had tried to march
toward the provincial capital of Jalalabad before being turned back by
police.

The Nangahar governor's office said at least three people were
injured during a clash with police.

'Taliban firefight'

A Nato spokesman confirmed foreign and Afghan forces had conducted
some operations in the area but said he was not aware of any civilian
deaths and the alliance was checking the incident.

Colonel
Wayne Shanks said eight Taliban fighters were killed in a firefight,
adding that fighters fired rocket-propelled grenades at Nato forces.

Two other people were captured during
the operation, and weapons and communications gear were confiscated at
the targeted compound, Shanks said.

Al Jazeera's Hoda Abdel Hamid reporting from Kabul said international
forces and Afghan troops were flown to the area by helicopters
overnight and carried out the raid.

"According to a Nato and Isaf [International Security Assistance
Force] statement they were targeting Taliban sub-commanders and some
fighters which their intelligence said were hiding in a compound outside
a village.

"But the villagers said none of those killed had anything to do with
the Taliban, that all of them were innocent civilians and members of two
different families."

Sensitive issue

Civilian deaths at the hands of US and Nato forces are a highly
sensitive issue in Afghanistan.

Last year public outrage over such deaths led General Stanley
McChrystal, the Nato commander, to tighten the rules on combat if
civilians are at risk.

He also ordered allied forces to avoid night raids when possible and
bring Afghan troops with them if they do enter homes after dark.

Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, discussed the issue in meetings
with US officials in Washington this week. He has previously sought a
complete ban on night raids.

"Civilian casualties is not only a
political problem ... I don't want civilian casualties," Barack Obama,
the US president, said on Wednesday after meeting Karzai. 

"I take no pleasure in reading a report where there is a civilian
casualty. That's not why I am president, that's not why I am commander
in chief."

Last year was the deadliest for Afghan civilians since the war
started in 2001, according to the United Nations.

Afghan officials say about 170 Afghan civilians were killed between
the months of March and April this year alone, an increase of 33 per
cent compared to the same period last year.


 Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies

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