Anger over deaths in NATO raid

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U.S. soldiers on patrol in Dand district in Kandahar on Saturday.
U.S. soldiers on patrol in Dand district in Kandahar on Saturday.

Jon Boone

Kabul: Fury erupted in eastern Afghanistan on Friday after U.S. soldiers were once again accused of killing civilians during a night raid on a private house.

The assault on the compound in the village of Qal'eh-ye Allah Nazar in Nangahar province occurred at about one a.m., leaving several people dead.

Officials said it was an intelligence-led operation and that eight people had been killed during a shootout, including a Taliban sub-commander. Weapons had been recovered from the compound, they said.

That was not how the incident was seen by family members, neighbours and the local population, 500 of whom demonstrated outside the office of the governor of Surkh Rod district. One person was reported by locals to have been killed and two injured after the crowd tried to enter the government buildings.

Ahmad Zia Ab-razai, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said 14 civilians had been “murdered” and three injured. He said local authorities had started an investigation and had been in contact with U.S. forces, who are usually responsible for mounting night operations, and was told they were looking for a Taliban commander called Shamsul Rahman.

Mohammad Rafi (38) a member of the family whose mother and son were killed, said he was in bed when U.S. soldiers, some of whom had climbed over the high mud walls of the traditional fort-like building, entered the compound.

“They shouted out that they were coming to search the building, but then they entered the rooms and shot everyone they found, one by one,” he said.

This year Stanley McChrystal, the overall commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, has taken steps to reduce the number of night raids, which are one of the key causes of anger towards foreigners.

The Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, has called for a ban, but General McChrystal has reserved the right to continue using the controversial technique.

The issue of civilian causalities was at the top of Mr. Karzai's agenda during meetings this week in Washington with Barack Obama and other senior U.S. administration officials. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010



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