KABUL: Hundreds of angry protesters staged a protest on Friday in eastern Afghanistan, accusing Nato forces of killing a dozen civilians during an overnight raid.
Around 300 protesters in the Surkh Rod district of Nangahar province chanted “Death to Shairzai (the provincial governor), (Afghan President Hamid) Karzai and the Americans” as they threw stones at district administration offices, where the raid took place, an AFP reporter said. Afghan and Nato forces had arrived at a village by helicopter on Thursday night and carried out an attack against Taliban militants, based on a tip-off, said provincial spokesman Ahmad Zia Abdulzai.
“An operation was carried out by joint forces but at this stage we don’t know how many people were killed and if they are all Taliban or there were any civilians among them,” Abdulzai said. The provincial governor had sent a delegation to the area to investigate the claims of civilian casualties, he said. Nato had no immediate comment. Local authorities prevented the protesters from marching to the provincial capital, Jalalabad, fearing eruptions of violence.
An official who did not want to be named said 11 people had been killed during the raid by Nato forces, including civilians. He added that two people had been injured and another two were detained by the Nato forces. The protesters claimed 12 people, all of them civilians and including farmers, were killed during the raid. Civilian casualties are a sensitive issue in Afghanistan, with Karzai repeating his concerns during a visit this week to Washington. The commander of the 130,000 US and Nato troops in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, recently ordered that night raids be scaled down as one measure to reduce civilian deaths and injuries.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 15th, 2010.