Afghans Protest Days After U.S. Air Raid Kills More Than 100 Civilians
Chanting “Death to America” and hurling rocks, hundreds gathered Thursday in western Afghanistan to protest American airstrikes that Afghan officials and villagers said had killed many civilians, threatening to stiffen Afghan opposition to the war just as the Obama administration is sending 20,000 more troops.
The two-hour demonstration came a day after talks on Wednesday in Washington between President Obama and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, whose office called the civilian deaths “unjustifiable and unacceptable.” Afghan officials and villagers said the airstrikes had killed dozens and perhaps more than 100 civilians.
In the main city of Farah province, protesters gathered at a police station and the local governor’s office, chanting slogans against the American and Afghan governments, witnesses reported. Traders shuttered their stores and said they would not reopen them until the airstrikes had been fully investigated and the demonstrators’ demands had been met. Participants in the protest, interviewed by telephone, said demonstrators called for an American withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Outside the governor’s office, police opened fire on stone-throwing protesters and wounded three of them. Three high-ranking officials met the protesters and offered to resign in sympathy with the demonstrators, according to Allauddin Khan, a tribal elder among those who met with the local officials.
Another protester, Bismillah Khan, said the demonstrators accused American authorities of bombing civilians instead of Taliban fighters. He put the number of protesters at 2,000 from many parts of the province. >>>
Barack Obama has expressed regret for civilian deaths in Afghanistan, vowing to “make every effort” to avoid them as US-led forces step up their fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
The US president’s comments on Wednesday came in the wake of reports that a US-led air raid in Afghanistan this week had killed as many as 100 civilians.
If confirmed it would be the biggest loss of civilian life in a single attack since US troops invaded Afghanistan in 2001.
Rohul Amin, the governor of Farah province where the alleged attack took place, said on Wednesday that he feared 100 civilians had been killed in the province’s Bala Baluk district, about 600km from Kabul, the capital.
Amin said Taliban fighters were reportedly using civilian homes to shelter from US-led forces during an operation targeting fighters….
‘Dozens of bodies’
An International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) team in Farah province’s Bala Baluk district said it saw “dozens of bodies” at two locations.
“There were bodies, there were graves, and there were people burying bodies when we were there,” said Jessica Barry, an ICRC spokesperson.
“We do confirm women and children.”
Barry added that an ICRC community-based first aid volunteer and 13 members of his extended family including his five daughters and three sons, were among the dead.
She said that they were killed while sheltering in their home.
The US said on Tuesday that it was conducting a joint inquiry, along with the Afghan government, into the deaths, with investigators from both sides visiting the sites….
Focus on fighting
The Taliban has used Pakistan’s border region with Afghanistan as a base to launch attacks in the two countries since their five-year rule in Kabul was ended by a US military invasion in 2001.
Washington has heightened its focus on fighting the Taliban since the Obama administration assumed power this year, with an added 21,000 troops being sent to Afghanistan.
There are more than 30,000 US troops in Afghanistan already, alongside a similar number of troops from other foreign nations.
Last year, more than 2,000 civilians were killed in fighting against the Taliban, according to the UN, a 40 per cent jump from the previous year’s figure.