PAN, September 25, 2010

Laghman civilian deaths spark protest

A resident of Alingar district, Rahmatullah, said most of those killed in the joint operation were civilians

By Abdul Mueed Hashmi

Protestors in eastern Laghman province said on Saturday civilians were also among 30 people killed in an ongoing coalition operation in the Alishang district.

Civilians killed in Laghman province
This is not the first time civilians are killed in Alishing by the US/NATO. This photos shows villagers standing next to the bodies of civilians who they said were killed in a NATO-led attack in Armul village in Laghman province December 8, 2009. The NATO-led force said on Tuesday no civilians had died in the attack, saying its forces had killed seven militants and arrested four, but a provincial official said 13 civilians were killed in the pre-dawn raid in Armul village. A Reuters journalist in the village saw the body of a woman and 12 men, including two teenagers, covered in shrouds.

More than 250 Afghan army, police and coalition personnel conducted the air assault in the Alishang district on Friday after they came under small arms fire, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said.

The joint assault force engaged several militants in the area. "More than 30 enemy fighters have been killed in the engagement. Initial reports indicate that there are no injuries or damages to any civilians in the area."

However, more than 200 civilians took to the streets on Saturday afternoon, chanting slogans against NATO for killing several civilians in the inaccurate bombardment.

Sharifullah, one of the protestors, claimed no militant had been killed in the operation and that all the victims were non-combatants.

A resident of Alingar district, Rahmatullah, said most of those killed in the joint operation were civilians.

On the other hand, Laghman Governor Muhammad Iqbal Azizi told Pajhwok Afghan News 31 Taliban guerrillas had killed in the sweep, which is still ongoing. He denied any casualties had been inflicted on civilians.

His spokesman, Gul Rahman Hamdard, said the operation in Masmood Olya and Masmood Sofla areas of the district were still in progress.

Provincial police chief, Col. Aziz Gharani, said the protestors threw stones at police. He added two protestors had been arrested.

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