At least 11 people were killed as the protesters fought with police and tried to assault a NATO outpost in the city of Taloqan, the capital of Takhar province.

Some 1,500 protesters poured into the streets of a northern Afghan city on Wednesday, shouting “Death to America!” and calling for justice as they clashed with security forces following an overnight NATO raid they claim killed four civilians.

At least 11 people were killed as the protesters fought with police and tried to assault a NATO outpost in the city of Taloqan, the capital of Takhar province.

The NATO raid they were protesting took place hours before on the outskirts of the city. The coalition said four insurgents died in the operation and that two others were detained.

Night raids targeting insurgents regularly stir up controversy in Afghanistan, where angry residents often charge the next day that international forces go after the wrong people or mistreat civilians as they search compounds. Success by NATO in reducing civilian casualties and agreements to conduct night raids alongside Afghan forces have not managed to stem the tide of accusations.

Provincial Gov. Abdul Jabar Taqwa said the four casualties from the raid were two women and two men who were killed when troops burst into a home in an area known as Gawmal late Tuesday night. He said that no one in his government was informed about the raid and that NATO acted unilaterally.

NATO confirmed it killed four people, two of them women, but said all were armed and tried to fire on its troops. NATO said the raid was conducted by a “combined Afghan and coalition security force,” according to coalition policy.

A spokesman for NATO forces said that the governor was contacted ahead of the raid.

“It is standard practice in Takhar province to contact the Afghan provincial leadership prior to an operation. In this case, calls were placed to the provincial governor six times prior to the operation,” Maj. Michael Johnson said. He also reiterated that Afghan forces took part in the operation.

“We are aware of the claims of civilian casualties, and are looking into them,” Maj. Johnson added.

Provincial police chief Gen. Shah Jahan Noori said he had not been informed of the operation and said none of his officers were involved. Army officials could not be reached immediately for comment.

NATO said that the raid targeted a man working with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan - an insurgent group that is powerful in the north. The man was involved in arms trafficking and building explosives, NATO said. The alliance did not say if he was killed or captured.

It is rare for women to be part of an insurgent fighting force in Afghanistan, but not unheard of. There have been cases in the past of women fighting with the insurgency, including as suicide bombers.

NATO said in its statement that one of the women was armed with an assault rifle and tried to fire on the troops. The other woman was armed with a pistol and pointed her gun at the security force as she was trying to escape the compound.

On Wednesday, hundreds of people gathered on the road from Gawmal to Taloqan and carried the four bodies on platforms as they marched into the city, according to an Associated Press Television News cameraman at the scene. They shouted insults at Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the United States.

“Death to Karzai! Death to America!” they yelled.

The governor, Taqwa, estimated that there were about 1,500 demonstrators.

The protest turned violent as some in the crowd started looting shops and throwing stones at a small German base in the city. Police were out throughout the city trying to calm the crowd, Mr. Taqwa said. Gunfire could be heard in a number of neighbourhoods and troops at the German outpost shot off rounds in an attempt to disperse the crowd outside their walls.

At least 11 protesters were killed in the ensuing fighting, and 50 people were wounded - some of them police officers, said Faiz Mohammad Tawhedi, a spokesman for the Takhar government.

Defence Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi noted that civilian casualties from NATO forces have decreased drastically over the past three years, but said that any possible civilian deaths are still a concern for the government.

“Civilian casualties are always our main concern and preventing them is the priority of the Afghan leadership,” Gen. Azimi said.

More In: International | News