Al Jazeera.com – 2007-05-01 00:55:08
(April 30, 2007) — A US-led raid in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday killed more than six civilians, including a woman and a teenage girl, sparking a protest by hundreds of angry residents who voiced their opposition to the US military presence in the war-torn country.
The attacks early Sunday in the Bati Kot district caused the death of five civilians, said Abdul Mohammad, a Nangarhar police investigator said.
The US Army claimed that the raid targeted a “suspected car bomb cell”, denying civilian casualties and saying that only four rebels were killed in the attack.
But the protestors, who insist that innocent civilians were among the casualties, took to the streets late Sunday, carrying the bodies of the victims and blocking traffic with tree trunks.
Demonstrators denounced President Bush, as well as Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the governor of Nangarhar for failing to protect civilians.
“Their operation was based on incorrect reports, and they carried out a cruel attack on these houses,” Local resident Akhtar Mohammad said.
He added: “We are not the enemy, we are not al Qaeda. Why are they attacking us?”
“The people they have killed are not Taliban, they are civilians. They have killed civilians including children,” Mohammad said.
Another protestor told AFP: “We don’t want the Americans in our area.”
It’s worth mentioning that the protest was held on the same highway where U.S. troops killed or wounded at least 47 innocent Afghan civilians, including children, women and elderly villagers, after a bomb attack on a U.S. convoy last month.
Afghan officials have repeatedly urged U.S. and Nato not to harm any innocent civilians during their raids. Such attacks will certainly erode the Afghans’ trust in the U.S. and influence their support to foreign troops and the U.S.-backed but fragile government, correspondents say.
A report by global watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated last month that Afghan civilians bear the brunt of attacks by rebels and occupation forces. Although HRW accused both sides of committing war crimes, it criticized foreign forces for violating “the laws of war”, saying that 230 civilians were killed in U.S.-led or Nato operations in 2006.
Hundreds of British and Afghan troops swept into southern Afghanistan on Monday before dawn, as part of a NATO operation said to be aimed at expelling Taliban fighters from the area.
Officials said that Operation Silicon, involving more than 3,000 Nato and Afghan troops, is the latest effort to control the Helmand province.
A long column of armoured vehicles brought several hundred British soldiers to the Sangin Valley, near the town of Gereshk and Afghanistan’s strategic ring road that has “for too long been under the semi-control of the Taliban,” said Lt.-Col. Stuart Carver, a British commander.
“It is all part of a longer-term plan to restore the whole of Helmand to government control,” Carver said.
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