Afghans protest against US killings

Hundreds protest against civilian casualties caused by foreign forces in Afghanistan.

    Civilian casualties
    Major Dominic Biddick, who commanded a company of British troops in Monday's Nato-led operation, told an Associated Press reporter that 75 suspected fighters had been killed there.
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    Speaking to locals and regional authorities, James Bays, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Afghanistan, said only 10 deaths could immediately be confirmed from the Nato-led raids.

    He said: "Of the 10 we have confirmed, they say only two were Taliban and the other eight were civilians."


    Civilian casualties across the country have increased pressure on Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan's president, to bring stability to the country.


    Underscoring the volatility, the Taliban movement on Tuesday said they had seized control of the Rabat Singi district in Herat province.


    The Afghan government is reported to have sent a delegation to convince the Taliban to relinquish command of the district without intervention by foreign troops or fighting.


    Bays said the Afghan government is "seriously concerned" about the reports of civilian deaths and have called on the US-led forces repeated to use caution and restraint.


    He said: "The real worry about the Afghan government is that every time a civilian dies in a bombing raid, people in the area are likely to lose support for the government and start supporting the Taliban."


    Anti-US protests


    Tuesday's protests were in the eastern province of Nangarhar, where up to six civilians died on Sunday in the second reported killing of civilians in the region by US-led coalition troops in less than two months.


    The protestors, mostly students, briefly blocked a main road into the provincial capital, Jalalabad, and repeated calls for Karzai to step down.


    "We do not want American forces, they should go, death to America"

    Nangarhar student protesting Karzai and US forces

    One student, referring to Karzai's repeated calls for Western troops to avoid civilian casualties, said: "Karzai should go. He has no power and he can't serve us."


    Another student chanted "We do not want American forces. They should go. Death to America," before the protest ended peacefully under a tight police watch.


    A powerful tribe in the province, the Shinwar, on Monday vowed not to allow US-led forces and foreign troops under a separate Nato command into their district to hunt the Taliban.


    Neighbours of the dead and Nangarhar officials said those killed in the raid on Sunday were civilians, including three women. But the US military said four were Taliban fighters and that the only civilian casualties were a woman and a teenage girl killed in crossfire.


    Herat anger   


    In Herat, protests erupted over the weekend after US officials said more than 130 Taliban had been killed in several days of ground and air attacks.


    Provincial authorities rejected the coalition figure of Taliban deaths and dispatched a team to investigate.


    "We have learnt from various sources ... that 30 civilians are among those killed," police chief Fazli told reporters in Herat city.


    The death toll of suspected Taliban killed in the raids was less than reported by the US military, he said.


    Civilian deaths are a sensitive issue for Karzai and the foreign troops, facing an upsurge in attacks by the Taliban in what is seen as a crunch year for both sides in the conflict.


    Scores of civilians have died, most due to suicide bombings and other attacks by the Taliban, but a significant number also due to action by foreign forces.


    More than 4,000 people, including 1,000 civilians, died last year in the worst fighting since the Taliban were ousted in 2001.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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