PAN, January 12, 2010

Afghan, foreign forces kill ten protesters

Ten people were killed and 25 others wounded as NATO-led soldiers opened fire on residents protesting civilian deaths...

Zainullah Stanikzai

A protesters wounded by NATO firing
Afghans rush a wounded man to a hospital in Lashkar Gah, In Helmand province, south of Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Jan 12, 2010. (Photo: AP)

LASHKARGAH: Ten people were killed and 25 others wounded as NATO-led soldiers opened fire on residents protesting civilian deaths and desecration of the Holy Quran in southern Helmand province on Tuesday.

Dwellers of the restive Garmser district said International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) soldiers raided the house of a tribal elder, killing three of his family members and torching copies of Quran in a local mosque.

To protest the overnight raid on the residence of tribal elder Haji Qayyum in the Darveshan village, residents staged a demonstration that came under fire from foreign troops, eyewitness Dost Muhammad told Pajhwok Afghan News.

Agha Muhammad, another resident who had come to the provincial capital of Lashkargah, said the people -- chanting slogans against international troops -- had informed the district chief of their protest. Even then they were fired on by Afghan and foreign soldiers, he claimed.

"Ten protestors were killed and 25 others wounded as a result of firing by the joint force," he alleged, saying those slightly injured were rushed to the Garmser Civil Hospital. Eleven people with serious injuries were shifted to the provincial capital, he continued.

An employee of the Lashkargah Emergency Hospital confirmed receiving 10 wounded civilians. Two of them are said to be in a critical condition.

A security official, who did not want to be named, confirmed eight deaths and injuries to13 others. The angry demonstrators reportedly turned violent against intelligence operatives, who opened fire on them, he said.

"The protestors were signaled to stop but they ignored the orders. Subsequently, they came under fire," the source said, disclosing one intelligence agent was also killed and another two injured. He alleged Taliban commander Mullah Naeem for provoking protestors.

In Kabul, the ISAF Joint Command (IJC) said it was aware of the protests against the alleged desecration of the Holy Quran that took place in Garmser district.

"While denying these allegations, we take them very seriously and support a combined investigation with local Afghan authorities," said Major Gen. Michael Regner, IJC deputy chief of staff for operations.

"ISAF is an international force that includes Muslim soldiers, and we deplore such an action under any circumstances." The allegation comes in reference to an operation against the Taliban the district.

On Sunday, the multinational force said, Afghan forces conducted the operation, supported by coalition troops. The joint force protected the dignity of all innocent civilians during the operation, it insisted

During the protest, an insurgent sniper shot an Afghan official, the statement added. ISAF service members identified the sniper and shot him dead. There were no other injuries or shots fired.

"As partners with the Afghan people, we will thoroughly investigate allegations to determine the facts," Regner said. "IJC remains committed to our Afghan partners and we will continue our efforts in support of a free and prosperous Afghanistan."

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