Al Jazeera – 2008-08-23 22:05:20
(August 23, 2008. 20:35 Mecca time, 17:35 GMT) — Hundreds of Afghans have staged a protest in the Shindand district in western Afghanistan after scores of people were reportedly killed in an raid by US-led forces.
The Afghan interior ministry has said that at least 76 civilians died in Thursday’s attack, most of them women and children.
Hundreds of people shouted anti-US slogans at Afghan soldiers as they arrived in the Azizabad area of Shindand district to bring aid to the families of the victims, witnesses said on Saturday.
“People didn’t accept the aid and started throwing stones at the soldiers saying the Afghan army is our enemy, we dont want anything from our enemies,” Shah Nawaz, a village elder, told the Reuters news agency.
“We will continue our demonstration until the international community listen to us and bring those who carried out yesterday’s attack to justice.”
Soldiers fired into the air to disperse the crowd and at least two people were wounded, according to police. The troops were forced back to their compound.
Daoud Sultanzoy, an Afghan MP, told Al Jazeera that NATO should not rely on air attacks when the Taliban are in villages and civilian areas.
“With either good or bad intelligence, the most important lesson to learn from this is that we need to rely more on ground troops,” he said.
“Since NATO and the coalition don’t have these troops, the reliance on air support is greater. So, if they can increase their ground operations it would probably alleviate some of these problems.”
“[The Taliban] don’t have offices,” he said. “This is a civilian house. And regretfully, when a bombing takes place — an aerial bombing, or any kind of smart bombing — definitely, you will have these kind of regretful casualities.”
The United Nations says that 255 of the almost 700 civilian deaths in fighting in Afghanistan this year have been caused by Afghan and US-led international troops.
The air assault on Wednesday that caused the deaths were called in to respond to an attack on troops operating in Laghman province, which adjoins the Sarobi area, where 10 French soldiers died earlier in the week, an official for the US-led forces said.
Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s president, condemned the civilian deaths on Saturday and said his government would soon take “necessary measures” to prevent further civilian casualties.
“Afghan President Hamid Karzai strongly condemns the uncoordinated air strike by coalition forces in Shindand district of Herat province which resulted in the death of at least 70 people including women and children,” his office said in a statement.
Karzai recently criticised air raids by the US and Nato-led forces for causing many civilian casualties and failing to win the war against the Taliban.
Rumi Nielson-Green, a US military spokeswoman, said that the raid on Thursday was led by Afghan commandos with support from US-led forces.
Initial reports from the US military said that 30 suspected Taliban fighters had been killed, but in Saturday Nielson-Green acknowledged that five civilians, two women and three children, were among the dead.
A statement from US forces at the military base at Bagram, north of Kabul, said an investigation had been launched.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies
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