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CanWest News Service, September 26, 2007

Afghans protest Karzai regime, alleged allied killings

The Zhari district chief, told Al-Jazeera. "If these actions against ordinary people are not stopped, more people will pick up arms and will fight the government and its foreign allies for justice."

Matthew Fisher

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Afghans shouting "Death to Canada" and other slogans blocked a main road in the hotly disputed Zhari District of Kandahar during a protest Wednesday against the rule of President Hamid Karzai and a house-to-house search operation by foreign forces that the demonstrators said had resulted in the death of two brothers who were mullahs.

One of the allegations against the Canadian troops leveled by the demonstrators was that they had walked into a house on Tuesday night in the town of Sanzarai and had opened fire on those inside without saying anything. The Canadians were also blamed for several arrests. The operation was unfounded because there were no Taliban in the town, villagers told Afghan television crews which recorded the protest.

A Canadian military spokesman denied that Canadian or other International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops had been involved in any such raids, adding that Canadian and ISAF forces had also not been present during Wednesday’s protest.

Victim of Musa Qala bombing
A small boy injured by US/NATO bombs during the night of August 25/26, 2007 in Musa Qala (by Abdul Khaleq/ AP)

Photo Gallery of US victims in Afghanistan
The Afghan Victim Memorial Project by Prof. Marc

If the reports of a search operation in what is Canada’s area of operations in southern Afghanistan were true, it may have been conducted by Afghan security forces or by U.S. forces operating outside NATO’s ISAF command structure as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

However, the U.S. also denied any involvement in a search operation or that its forces had killed any civilians.

Al-Jazeera put the number of demonstrators in Sanzarai at more than 1,000, but other sources and videotape evidence suggested that 300 to 400 men and boys had participated and that several mullahs had incited the crowd in what appeared to be an orchestrated event.

"Foreign forces must co-ordinate operations with Afghan forces in order to avoid misunderstanding," Habib Sanzarai, the Zhari district chief, told Al-Jazeera. "If these actions against ordinary people are not stopped, more people will pick up arms and will fight the government and its foreign allies for justice."

The protest came during a day of heavy fighting that left more than 160 Taliban dead in the neighbouring provinces of Helmand and Uruzgan.

The confrontation in Uruzgan started as a Taliban ambush and ended with a counterattack by coalition warplanes and artillery, the U.S. military said. A Taliban spokesman disputed the death toll claimed by the U.S., telling Al-Jazeera, "Everyone knows we control the area, how possibly could the coalition stand there and count the bodies."

The fighting in Helmand involved insurgents and the soldiers of the 205th Afghan National Army Corps, the U.S. military said. It centred around the town of Musa Qala.

There has been an increase in direct ground combat recently between Canadian troops and insurgents, too. On Monday, Cpl. Nathan Hornburg of the King’s Own Calgary Rifles was killed by a mortar. The 24-year-old armoured crew member was the first Canadian to die in ground combat in Afghanistan in 11 months. Most of the 71 Canadians who have been killed here have been struck by suicide bombers or by improvised explosive buried under roads.

Category: US-NATO, Protest - Views: 10722


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