Rahim Faiez / Associated Press Writer – 2006-05-30 07:44:59
KABUL, Afghanistan (May 29, 2006) — US and Afghan security forces fired on protesters in the Afghan capital after a riot erupted Monday because of a deadly traffic accident involving US troops, police and eyewitnesses said. At least four people were killed.
Witnesses said the incident began when a convoy of at least three US Humvees came into the city from the outskirts and hit several civilian cars in rush-hour traffic jam.
“The American convoy hit all the vehicles which were in their way. They didn’t care about the civilians at all,” said Mohammad Wali, 21, a shopkeeper who said he saw several dead bodies.
Three people were killed and 16 wounded in the crash, which sparked a riot by stone-throwing Afghans who shouted “Down with America,” said Sher Shah Usafi, a Kabul police chief. US forces then fired on the crowd, killing one person and wounding two, he said.
A commander with the city’s traffic police who was at the scene said he also saw US forces firing on protesters. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
A US military spokesman, Lt. Col. Paul Fitzpatrick, confirmed US troops were involved in the accident but said the military had “no indication that US forces fired any shots.” He said an investigation was continuing.
AP Television News footage showed hundreds of angry young men hurling rocks at what appeared to be three US military trucks and three Humvees as they sped from the area after the crash, their windscreens cracked by the stones.
A center-mounted machine gun on one of the Humvees was seen firing into the air over the crowd as the vehicle sped away.
An AP reporter at the scene said he saw about 10 Afghan police firing into a crowd of about 50 demonstrators, and that US troops had already left the area. The protesters scattered when the firing erupted, but later regrouped.
Two helicopters belonging to a NATO-led peacekeeping force hovered over the area.
State television cut transmission of a live broadcast of parliament when one angry lawmaker interrupted the proceedings to protest the incident.
“I have seen the incident. … I come from that area and I have to tell you,” Taj Mohammed Mujahid shouted before the house speaker ruled him out of order and the screen went black.
Transmission resumed minutes later and parliamentary speaker Yunus Qanooni called for calm.
“We call on the people to be tolerant because there is the risk this could be exploited by our enemies,” he said, referring to Taliban rebels who are waging a fierce insurgency in the country’s southern and eastern regions.
He said the Cabinet was discussing the matter.
Afghans often complain about what they call the aggressive driving tactics of the US military. Convoys often pass through crowded areas at high speeds and sometimes disregard road rules. The US military says such tactics are necessary to protect the troops from attack.
Associated Press correspondents Amir Shah, Daniel Cooney and Edward Harris contributed to this report.
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