Mon, May 02, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Afghan unrest on the rise

FEEBLE SECURITY The US responds to criticism that its attacks are heavy-handed, while an anti-drug team was attacked during a mission to survey opium production


The US military said that its warplanes attacked a rebel camp in central Afghanistan, killing three civilians -- including a child -- as well as four suspected militants.

In another sign of the country's fragile security, protesters in the western city of Herat shouted anti-American slogans and demanded the return of an ousted regional strongman on Saturday, a day after a woman and her daughter were shot dead in unrest.

The airstrike occurred Friday during a two-day offensive against insurgents in Uruzgan province, a US military statement said.

Four militants were killed, as well as an Afghan woman, an Afghan man and a child, the statement said. Two more children were wounded and taken to a US base for treatment, it said.

Afghan officials and human rights groups have repeatedly complained about civilian casualties in US-led military operations, saying heavy-handed tactics could stoke sympathy for militants who have maintained a stubborn insurgency since the Taliban fell in 2001. US commanders insist they try to avoid hurting civilians, and accuse militants of using villagers and passers-by for protection.

Among recent incidents involving civilian casualties was a March 22 fire fight in Paktika province that left seven people dead, including two children and a woman. A suspected militant and two other insurgents were also killed.

In another challenge to US-backed President Hamid Karzai's feeble grip on the country, demonstrators marched through Herat on Saturday, a day after bloodshed there marred 13th anniversary celebrations of the fall of Afghanistan's last communist government.

Police said a soldier accidentally opened fire on Friday evening when a crowd surged toward a city park. Other officials and witnesses said shooting broke out during a row between troops and police. The Ministry of Defense said a woman and her daughter were killed. Police said eight more people were hurt in the ensuing stampede.

Also, a bomb tore through a jeep carrying Afghan anti-drug police in eastern Afghanistan, killing three officers and injuring two more, in the first deadly attack on the country's new counternarcotics forces. The bomb hit the vehicle in Kunar province, where the team was surveying opium cultivation.

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