GHAZNI, Afghanistan, (Reuters) – An Afghan woman and a child were killed in a joint NATO-Afghan operation against insurgents in Afghanistan on Friday, sparking a protest by a group of angry villagers.
Civilian deaths, especially during operations by foreign forces, have infuriated Afghans and increased hostility towards the presence of international troops nearly eight years after the Taliban’s fall in Afghanistan.
The NATO-led force said the woman and a school-aged girl died during an operation by foreign and Afghan forces against suspected militants in the southeastern Ghazni province.
Reuters television images from the scene showed two bodies including that of a child lying on the floor of a house as a group of Afghans huddled together and cried over the bodies.
A group of 100 angry Afghans could be seen later in the day marching through a nearby village shouting “Death to America” and “Death for (President) Hamid Karzai”.
Residents said house searches by troops looking for Taliban fighters have antagonised the local population. “House searches, killings and beatings of civilians have become daily business,” said one villager.
The NATO force said it was unclear if the militants or the joint force were responsible for the latest deaths.
Abdul Rahman Shaidaee, head of Ghazni’s intelligence department, said according to his information four civilians were killed by international forces in the operation.
More than 1,500 civilians have been killed by violence in Afghanistan so far this year, according to the United Nations. It said in a report last month that 68 percent of the civilian killings were a result of militant attacks, while 23 percent were caused by Afghan and foreign troops led by NATO and the U.S. military.
U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal, who took command of foreign forces in Afghanistan in June, has made protecting Afghan civilians the focal point of his strategy.
McChrystal’s new orders also call for more rapid efforts to apologise and provide compensation if civilians are killed.