View Full Version : Angry Protests Against U.S. Over 16 Dead Afghan Civilians

01-25-2009, 10:20 PM
Angry protests over 16 dead Afghan civilians


Published: Sunday January 25, 2009

About 1,000 demonstrators on Sunday shouted slogans against US troops in Afghanistan to condemn an operation which President Hamid Karzai said killed 16 civilians, including women and children.

The angry men marched in the small town of Mihtarlam, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) east of the capital Kabul, chanting "death to the Americans" and demanding an end to US-only operations, officials and witnesses told AFP.

Some of the protesters threw stones at US military vehicles, witnesses said, putting the number of demonstrators at 1,000.

The US military said Saturday that an operation against a Taliban network had taken place near Mihtarlam, killing "15 armed militants". But locals said civilians were also killed and they were investigating to find out how many.

A statement from Karzai's office Sunday said: "An air and ground operation in Garoch area on the outskirts of Mihtarlam town took place midnight Friday resulting in the death of 16 civilians including two women and three children."

It condemned the latest alleged civilian casualties in the fight against Taliban-led insurgents in Afghanistan, saying such incidents "weaken government rule and empower the terrorists."

Karzai "once again reminds the coalition forces that bombing Afghan villages will not yield anything in the war against terror except civilian casualties," it said.

Officials say such casualties are often the result of US forces not properly coordinating their operations with their Afghan counterparts, sometimes resulting in them being led astray by poor intelligence.

US military spokesman Colonel Greg Julian said Sunday the force had no information to support Karzai's statement but planned to travel to the area next week with Afghan officials to "determine the ground truth."

The US forces have said they targeted a Taliban commander known for trafficking foreign fighters and weapons into the region to attack coalition forces, including in an assault that killed 10 French troops in August 2008.

"As coalition forces approached the wanted militant's compound, several groups of armed militants exited their homes and began manoeuvring on the force," the US military said in a statement.

"Armed with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades, the militants engaged coalition forces from multiple directions," it said, adding one of the killed militants was a woman who had been carrying a rocket-propelled grenade.

The Taliban, an extremist Islamic group, ran the government in Kabul from 1996 to 2001 before being removed in a US-led invasion and are now waging a deadly insurgency that has picked up pace in the past three years.

There are nearly 70,000 international soldiers in Afghanistan, including 34,000 US troops, helping the government to fight the insurgents.

They run the air power that is regularly called in to help in operations across the rugged land, where commanders have long called for more soldiers.

There are regular allegations of civilian casualties in operations, most often air strikes, but there are conflicting statements about how many.

International commanders have said they could confirm that just over 200 ordinary Afghans died in operations last year but the figure given by the United Nations is about four times as high.