Deadly Afghan protests erupt following NATO raid

At least 11 people were killed and more than 80 injured when violent protests erupted after a NATO raid in northern Afghanistan that left four people dead, Afghan authorities say.

By , McClatchy Newspapers

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    Afghan protesters throng the streets following the killing of four people in a NATO raid during an anti- US demonstration in Taloqan, Takhar province, north of Kabul, Afghanistan, on Wednesday, May 18.
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At least 11 people were killed and more than 80 injured Wednesday during a demonstration launched in reaction to the alleged killing of four civilians – including two women – in a night raid conducted by NATO troops in the northeastern province of Takhar, local Afghan official said.

"American forces entered a house in a village near Taloqan city, the capital of Takhar province, around 12:30 a.m. As a result, four people were killed. Two of the deaths are women," Abdul Jabar Taqwa, the provincial governor, told McClatchy in a telephone interview.

Governor Taqwa did not give details about the identities of those killed, saying they have launched an investigation. But the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said they have killed insurgents in the raid.

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"A combined Afghan and coalition security force killed four insurgents, including two armed females during a security operation targeting an Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan facilitator in Taloqan district, Takhar province yesterday," statement issued from the forces said.

According to the ISAF statement the two women killed were armed too.

"A woman wearing a chest rack and armed with an AK-47 rifle attempted to engage the force," the statement said. "The security force gave numerous verbal warnings, but when the armed female pointed her weapon at them, she was subsequently killed. "Afterwards, the force killed a male insurgent as he ignored verbal commands and picked up the AK-47 assault rifle and attempted to fire on the force. "Shortly after, a woman armed with a pistol rushed out of the targeted compound and displayed hostile intent by pointing her pistol at the security force. The security force engaged the female resulting in her death."

But the demonstrators claimed those killed in the raid were civilians.

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According to the governor some of the demonstrators were armed and attacked the PRT offices with grenade but faced resistance from the guards.

"There were over 2000 people who demonstrated in front of the governor office and the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT)," Taqwa said. "It was a peaceful demonstration but the presence of Taliban insurgents and other intruders turned the demonstration into violence."

The governor said that police have not fired on the demonstrators. But Faiz Mohammad Tawhidi, the spokesman for the governor, said that the demonstrators were killed in a fire exchange with the security forces.

"The demonstrators attacked the PRT compound, with stone, wood and some with gun, and the guards protecting the compound resisted," Mr. Tawhidi said.
Taqwa criticized the way the raid was conducted and he called the operation by US forces "uncoordinated" with Afghan forces.

"We had agreed with Americans not to conduct operation independently," Taqwa said. "This time they did not share the information with us. It was a big mistake, and a big catastrophe for this province."

The governor said there is no influence of Taliban insurgents in the area where the incident happened.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai strongly condemned the killings in Takhar province in a statement issued from the palace.

"Despite continuous warnings from the president of the Islamic republic of Afghanistan for the prevention of uncoordinated NATO operations, it has not stopped completely," the statement said.

According to the statement, it is the obligation of Afghan government to investigate these killings and ask for explanations from NATO commanders. The president said peaceful demonstration is the right of people and must not be turned into violence.

Night raids have been one of the most controversial topics in relations between the Afghan government and the US-led NATO forces stationed in the country.

President Karzai has called continuously for a halt of the raids but NATO troop commanders call night raid an essential tool in the fight against insurgents.

Most people – especially in the south and east where the insurgents are more active – complain the night raids conducted by NATO troops often cause civilians to suffer, which increases the hatred from the local population towards international forces.

"We have got 11 deaths and 83 injured – all civilians – for treatment so far. Ten of the injured people are critical," Hafizullah Safi, chief doctor for the provincial hospital, said. "We have sent six injured people to neighboring Kunduz due to services shortages," Dr. Safi said.

Takhar is almost one of the secure provinces in the northeast of Afghanistan, which lies on the border with neighboring Tajikistan. It also borders Kunduz province, where Taliban insurgents are more active, and it has witnessed deadly attacks carried out by militants against foreign and Afghan forces in recent months.

On Saturday, one person was killed and three others wounded when hundreds protested the killing of a 15-year-old boy in a night raid by the NATO forces in the eastern province of Nangarhar.

Recently, violent demonstration has claimed many lives including foreign nationals.

The worst demonstration was staged last month in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif over the condemnation of the Muslim holy book (Quran) by US pastor Terry Jones. Angry protestors raided the United Nations office in that city, killing seven international aid workers.

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