Kabul Cracks Down on ‘Arab Spring’ Protests against NATO Killings

May 21st, 2011 - by admin

Mohammad Hamed / Reuters & Agence France-Presse & Associated Press – 2011-05-21 22:48:20


Police Open Fire to Disperse Afghan Protests
Mohammad Hamed / Reuters

TALOQAN, Afghanistan (May 19, 2011) — Protesters spilled into northern Afghan streets on Thursday, a day after at least 14 people were killed and scores wounded in wild protests that underscored deep tensions between Afghans and foreign troops.

The second day of outcry came as the NATO-led force in Afghanistan said some of its troops had fired during protests on Wednesday, during which at least 80 people were also wounded, although the circumstances were unclear.

The protests were sparked by a disputed “night raid” by Afghan and NATO troops late on Tuesday in which four people were killed, including two women.

Afghans, including President Hamid Karzai, have condemned the raid and said four innocent family members were shot dead. The Taliban also denounced the killings.

NATO-led forces maintain four armed insurgents, including a senior member of the al Qaeda-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and two armed women, were killed.

Thursday’s protests were smaller than Wednesday’s, when an estimated 3,000 people stormed into the streets of the normally peaceful town of Taloqan, chanting “death to America” and “death to Karzai.”

Shah Jahan Noori, police chief of northern Takhar province, said police fired into the air to disperse hundreds of protesters in Taloqan on Thursday, some of whom had tried to storm the police headquarters.

He said some protesters were armed with AK-47 rifles and that some rooms in the police headquarters had been set ablaze.

“It was getting out of control and police had to shoot in the air to disperse them,” Noori told Reuters by telephone.

Hassan Basej, head of the Takhar provincial hospital, said three people with gunshot wounds were being treated.

The United Nations mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a statement it had launched its own investigations into incidents in Taloqan and urged all sides to “take all necessary measures to protect civilians.”

“Tensions remain high in Taloqan today. UNAMA urges all parties to remain calm and to exercise restraint,” it said. UNAMA said at least 14 people had been killed in Wednesday’s violence.

While Afghan security forces had been responsible for dispersing Wednesday’s violent protests in Taloqan, the NATO-led coalition said some of its troops had fired warning shots when protesters tried to storm a base.

Most of the troops with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan’s north are German.

“We know that the ISAF troops involved did fire some shots,” said Major Michael Johnson, an ISAF spokesman in Kabul.

“There is a group of folks on their way up there to investigate,” he said.

In Berlin, a German NATO spokesman said German troops had fired only warning shots. “It can be excluded with high certainty that by that (firing warning shots) people were killed,” the spokesman said.

The mistaken killing of civilians by Western troops as they hunt insurgents is a major source of friction between Karzai and his Western backers.

They also complicate efforts to win support from ordinary Afghans, even though insurgents are responsible for the vast majority of civilian casualties.

“Night raids” cause deep anger and resentment among Afghans, due to mistaken killings and what many see as an attack on their dignity.

NATO commanders have stepped up their use of the tactic as one of the most effective ways to trap insurgents, even though Karzai has called repeatedly for them to be stopped.

The latest incident came at a time of high anti-Western sentiment in Afghanistan. Last month, seven foreign United Nations staffers were killed when protests against the burning of a Koran by a fundamentalist US pastor turned violent.

It also came after a week in which Afghan officials said NATO troops had inadvertently killed three young Afghan civilians, including a 10-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy, in separate incidents. ISAF has also apologized for the death of an unarmed teenage girl and an Afghan policeman a week ago.

Additional reporting by Ilona Wissenbach in Berlin; Writing by Paul Tait

Four Injured in Fresh Afghan Anti-NATO Protest
Agence France-Presse

KABUL (May 19, 2011) — Four people were injured in fresh protests in Afghanistan on Thursday as the UN urged “restraint” a day after 14 people died in demonstrations against a NATO-led military operation.

Around 200 people gathered in the streets of Taloqan in the northeastern province of Takhar for a second day with some attacking the town’s police compound and setting fire to police motorcycles, officials said.

Police used water cannon to disperse the crowd.

On Wednesday, 2,000 people joined violent protests against a raid by NATO-led forces which left four people dead who demonstrators and President Hamid Karzai said were civilians but foreign forces insisted were insurgents.

Local officials initially put Wednesday’s death toll at 12, but the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said it was 14 Thursday.

“There are about 200 people demonstrating,” Fayez Mohammad Tawhidi, a spokesman for the provincial administration, told AFP. “Police are using water cannon to disperse them.”

He added that some of the crowd had attacked the police compound and torched motorcycles before police fired in the air to disperse them.

“Three of the demonstrators were injured and taken to the hospital and the fire was put out,” he said.

Local officials in the area later said four protesters were wounded.

Tawhidi said elders had been planning a bigger protest but were persuaded to abandon it after local officials said they would investigate the foreign troop raid in three days.

UNAMA issued a statement saying it was “deeply concerned” about what had happened and called for restraint.

“Tensions in Taloqan remain high,” the statement said. “UNAMA urges all parties to remain calm and to exercise restraint.”

It also called on “all parties to the conflict to take all necessary measures to protect civilians” and said it would launch its own investigation.

The NATO-led raid that led to the demonstrations in usually peaceful Takhar has been angrily condemned by Karzai, who is demanding an explanation of what happened from the US commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus.

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said the operation killed four people, including two armed women, and targeted the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a militant group operating from bases including in Afghanistan.

Copyright 2011 AFP. All rights reserved.

Afghan Rally over NATO Raid turns Violent, 12 Die
Rahim Faiez and Heidi Vogt / Associated Press

(May 18, 2011) — Hundreds of protesters, angered by an overnight NATO raid that they believed killed four civilians, clashed on Wednesday with security forces on the streets of a northern Afghan city. Twelve people died in the fighting, government officials said.

There was also deadly violence in the east on Wednesday. A suicide bomber crashed a car into a police bus, killing 14 people and wounding 16, said Zemeri Bashary, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry. Most of the casualties were police officers, he said.

There was no claim of responsibility, but it matched the pattern of Taliban attacks against government workers and security forces.

The bus was traveling to a police academy in Jalalabad city when it was ripped apart in the explosion, Nangarhar province government spokesman Ahmad Zia Abdulzai said.

In the demonstration in Takhar province in the north, protesters fought with police and tried to assault a German military outpost in the city of Taloqan, the provincial capital, officials said, adding that some 50 were injured.

The protest was triggered by an overnight NATO raid on the outskirts of the city. The coalition said four insurgents died in the operation and that two others were detained.

Night raids targeting insurgents regularly stir up controversy in Afghanistan, where angry residents often charge the next day that international forces go after the wrong people or mistreat civilians as they search compounds. Success by NATO in reducing civilian casualties and agreements to conduct night raids alongside Afghan forces have not managed to stem the tide of accusations.

Adding to the confusion, it is often difficult to know who is a militant in insurgent-heavy areas, where entire villages are often allied with the Taliban or other groups.

On Wednesday, hundreds of people gathered on the road from Gawmal to Taloqan and carried the four bodies — two men and two women — on platforms as they marched into the city. They shouted insults at Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the United States as they pumped their fists in the air.

“Death to Karzai! Death to America!” they yelled. Officials estimated that there were about 1,500 demonstrators.

The crowd started looting shops and throwing stones at a small German base in the city. Gunfire could be heard in a number of neighborhoods and troops at the German outpost shot off rounds in an attempt to disperse the crowd outside their walls.

The German military said in a statement that the demonstrators threw hand grenades and Molotov cocktails into the base, wounding two German soldiers and four Afghan guards. The wounded German soldiers were both in stable condition, the military said.

At least 12 protesters were killed in the fighting, and 50 people were wounded, some of them police officers, said Faiz Mohammad Tawhedi, a spokesman for the Takhar government.

The raid late Tuesday killed two men and two women who were inside a home in an area known as Gawmal, provincial Gov. Abdul Jabar Taqwa said. He said that no one in his government was informed about the raid and that NATO acted unilaterally. NATO disputed that.

NATO confirmed it killed four people, two of them women.

One of the women was armed with an assault rifle and tried to fire on the troops, NATO said. The other woman pointed a pistol at the security forces as she was trying to escape the compound.

It is rare for women to be part of an insurgent fighting force in Afghanistan, but not unheard of. There have been cases in the past of women fighting with the insurgency, including as suicide bombers.

NATO said the raid was conducted by a “combined Afghan and coalition security force” and an alliance spokesman said that the governor was contacted ahead of the raid.

“It is standard practice in Takhar province to contact the Afghan provincial leadership prior to an operation. In this case, calls were placed to the provincial governor six times prior to the operation,” Maj. Michael Johnson said.

“We are aware of the claims of civilian casualties, and are looking into them,” Johnson added.

President Hamid Karzai sided with the Afghan officials. He issued a statement condemning the night raid as having killed four members of a family and said it was not coordinated with Afghan forces.

“Despite repeated warnings that have been issued by President Karzai to top these uncoordinated NATO operations, it seems these types of operations still have not stopped,” Karzai’s office said in a statement.

He said the Afghan people should protest without turning to violence, but he blamed NATO for the protest.

NATO said that the raid targeted a man working with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan — an insurgent group that is powerful in the north. The man was involved in arms trafficking and building explosives, NATO said. The alliance did not say if he was killed or captured.

In the south, a NATO service member died Wednesday in an insurgent attack, the military coalition said. NATO did not provide further details or the service member’s nationality.

(c) Thomson Reuters 2011. All rights reserved.
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