12 killed in fallout over NATO raid in Afghanistan
In response to four deaths from the raid, more than 1,000 Afghan protesters rally Wednesday in Taloqan. Some shouted, "Death to America!" / FULAD HAMDARD/Associated Press
Demonstrators swarmed the road leading into the northern city of Taloqan early Wednesday. They pumped their fists and shouted insults at Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the U.S. The crowd carried the bodies of four people -- two men and two women -- killed overnight.
The protesters said that all four were civilians gunned down in their home in the middle of the night by an international strike force. NATO said the dead were insurgents, and that all had tried to fire weapons at a NATO-Afghan team as it searched the house for an insurgent weapons trafficker. The alliance did not say whether he was killed or captured.
What began as a peaceful demonstration at 8:30 a.m. soon turned into a riot. The crowd started looting shops and throwing stones at a small German base in the city. It fought back against police who went out to calm the demonstrators, provincial Gov. Abdul Jabar Taqwa said.
The rioters threw hand grenades and Molotov cocktails, wounding two German soldiers and four Afghan guards, the German military said.
Faiz Mohammad Tawhedi, a spokesman for the Takhar provincial government, said at least 12 protesters were killed and that 50 people were wounded -- some of them police officers.
Although the protesters called for Karzai's death and accused him of being a U.S. stooge, the Afghan president issued a statement criticizing the NATO raid.
Karzai said the dead were four members of a family who were wrongly struck down. He also said the raid had not been coordinated with Afghan forces -- a charge that, if true, would be a breach of protocol.
NATO, however, said the raid was conducted with a partnered Afghan force.
The protests against nighttime raids illustrate a danger for NATO. The first U.S. forces will begin to withdraw in July amid growing anti-foreigner sentiment in Afghanistan after nearly a decade of war. Part of the idea behind last year's buildup of 30,000 additional U.S. troops was to protect civilians so they would help drive out insurgents.
But as international troop levels decrease, NATO is expected to rely more not only on training Afghan forces but also on targeted strikes against high-value operatives.