KABUL (AP) – Hundreds of Afghans demonstrated Sunday against an overnight U.S. military raid that one villager said killed several civilians. The American military said its forces only killed two militants.
The angry protesters gathered on the main highway linking Kabul and Kandahar near the site of the raid, the latest to stir up Afghan ire against foreign forces accused of killing civilians.
The U.S. military said Sunday’s operation in southeastern Ghazni province targeted a militant who coordinates attacks using roadside bombs and other weapons. It said coalition forces conducting the raid called out for all inhabitants to exit the targeted home, but several people barricaded themselves inside one building.
Coalition troops forced their way in and killed two militants, the U.S. military said in a statement.
Sayed Ismail Jahangir, a spokesman for Ghazni’s governor, said local officials also reported two people killed in the raid. “We are now investigating. Who are these two killed, civilians or insurgents?” Jahangir said.
The issue of civilian deaths is highly sensitive in Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai for years has pleaded with U.S. and NATO forces to prevent the deaths of innocent Afghans during military operations.
Over the last month some 50 Afghans, the vast majority civilians, according to Afghan officials, were killed in three separate U.S. Special Forces operations.
The deaths angered Afghans and prompted Karzai to set a one-month deadline for U.S. officials to respond to his demand that Afghan soldiers lead overnight raids in villages.
On Sunday, Baz Mohammad, a villager from Qarabagh district who participated in the highway demonstration, claimed that six people were killed in the Ghazni operation, but no officials confirmed that figure.
Mohammad also said that one woman was bitten by a military dog. The U.S. military statement said a “noncombatant” was injured in the operation but it did not give details.
In a second civilian death incident, an Afghan tribal leader from southeastern Paktika province was shot and killed Saturday by a NATO patrol after the vehicle he was in failed to stop when soldiers signaled it to, the NATO-led force said in a statement Sunday. A second Afghan was wounded in the incident.
On Sunday, a suicide bomber in a car attacked a convoy of foreign troops in the Afghan capital, Kabul, wounding two Afghans, police said. Taliban militants claimed responsibility for the attack.
The bomber targeted the convoy in Kabul’s western outskirts, said Gen. Zulmay Khan Horiyakheil, a regional police commander. It was not clear if the bomber hit the convoy. Representatives for NATO and U.S. troops said they were checking the report.
A Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahed, claimed responsibility for the blast in a phone call to an Associated Press reporter in Kabul.
Insurgents regularly launch suicide attacks on foreign and Afghan troops throughout Afghanistan, but the number of such attacks in the capital has decreased over the past year. There are some 70,000 U.S. and other NATO troops in the country.
President Barack Obama’s administration has indicated it is likely to send 30,000 additional troops in hopes of turning the tide of Taliban gains and extending the control of the central government into the far reaches of the country.