KABUL (AP) – About 500 protesters blocked roads and clashed with police in southern Afghanistan on Friday, alleging international forces fired gunshots in a village mosque.
A spokesman for NATO forces said they had no reports of international troops in the area where Thursday’s incident allegedly occurred.
A protester reached by phone said he saw Polish forces fire their guns in a mosque in the village of Dhi Khodaidad in Ghazni province.
Abdulrahman, who only gave one name, said he was in the mosque when the troops raided the building. He said the bullets hit a wall but did not injure anyone.
Afghanistan’s southern provinces continue to be Taliban strongholds wracked by violence, years after a U.S.-led invasion ousted the hard-line Islamists from the central government in 2001. It is often difficult in the turbulent region to separate actual incidents from Taliban propaganda, but a government delegation said the mosque door was damaged by bullets and some protesters said they had witnessed the mosque raid.
The protest turned violent as the crowd threw rocks at police and at least three demonstrators were wounded by gunfire before the melee calmed down, Ghazni police Chief Mohammad Zaman said.
“We don’t know if the Polish forces entered a mosque or not, but the protesters are claiming that,” Zaman said. At least two bullets hit the door of the mosque, said Deputy Gov. Kazim Allayar, who led a delegation that visited the building Friday. He said he did not have further information but that government officials would meet with Polish forces Saturday to find out if they were involved.
NATO forces said an initial query turned up no reports of troops in Dhi Khodaidad, but that they were continuing to investigate.
“We don’t believe there were any forces in the area yesterday,” said Lt. Commander Chris Hall, a NATO spokesman in Afghanistan.
Separately Friday, NATO forces said one of their troops was killed in a bomb attack in neighboring Zabul province. The service member died in an explosion Thursday, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said. A spokesman declined to provide further details.
NATO forces typically do not release the nationalities of killed or wounded troops. A number of countries have troops in Zabul, including Romania, Canada and Britain. President Barack Obama has ordered another 17,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan to try to fight back the strengthening insurgency. They will augment 38,000 American troops already in the country.