Afghanistan: protest erupts over Nato killings

Morning Star Online, May 14, 2010

Hundreds of protesters brandished sticks, threw stones and burned a US flag in eastern Afghanistan on Friday, furious at the killing of civilians by Nato forces in an overnight raid.

More than 500 people poured into the streets in the Surkh Rod district of Nangahar province to protest against a raid by Nato forces that killed at least nine civilians.

Government administrator in Surkh Rod Mohammed Arish said that a father and his four sons and four members of another family had been killed in the operation.

“They are farmers. They are innocent. They are not insurgents or militants,” insisted Mr Arish.

Locals carried several of the bodies during the demonstration.

The protesters blocked roads, hurled stones at a government office and sought to march toward the provincial capital of Jalalabad, before being turned back and at least three people were injured during a clash with police.

Civilian deaths at the hands of Nato forces are highly sensitive.

Public outrage over such deaths led Nato commander General Stanley McChrystal last year to tighten the rules on combat if civilians are at risk.

Gen McChrystal ordered his forces to avoid night raids when possible and bring Afghan troops with them if they do enter homes after dark.

But he stopped short of seeking a complete ban sought by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Nato also said at least nine alleged militants had been killed the previous night during a pursuit in a rural area in eastern Zabul province and confirmed that an operation in the morning a day earlier in Ghazni province had left at least a dozen fighters dead.

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