Mon, Mar 23, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Five killed in disputed Afghanistan raid

DIFFERING ACCOUNTS A coalition statement said that five militants were killed, while the local mayor claimed his house had been targeted and his staff were killed

AP , KABUL

US-led coalition and Afghan troops killed five suspected militants during a raid in northern Afghanistan yesterday, the coalition said in a statement. But the local mayor said his house was targeted and that the dead included his cook and driver.

Civilian deaths in coalition raids is an increasingly sensitive issue with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in the fight against the Taliban and other militants.

Such deaths turn residents against the foreign troops that back Karzai’s government, but US and NATO officials say militants regularly operate out of homes and portray dead fighters as civilians to stoke public anger.

A coalition statement said five militants were killed and four others were detained during the early-morning raid targeting a “terrorist network” in Kunduz Province, close to the border with Tajikistan.

The statement said one militant was killed in the initial assault on a compound and the rest died after troops asked for noncombatants to exit the buildings, but instead were “engaged with small arms fire.”

But Abdul Manan, mayor of Imam Sahib district, said the raid hit his house and killed two of his guards, a cook, a driver and another man.

Manan said helicopter-borne forces blew open the compound gates. He said he was hunkered down inside a room with his wife and children and had no contact with the troops during the raid.

The coalition statement said “no women or children were present in the targeted attacks.”

Independent confirmation of what happened was not possible because of the remoteness of the area where the raid occurred.

Abdul Rahman Akhtash, the deputy provincial police chief, said about 300 people gathered in Imam Sahib later yesterday to protest the raid.

On Saturday, a suicide car bomber attacked a police checkpoint in eastern Afghanistan, killing six people, police said, as the US envoy to the country said the US would push for a “very significant increase” in the country’s police force to improve security and stability.

Richard Holbrooke, who is the special envoy to both Pakistan and Afghanistan, said current plans to increase Afghanistan’s national police from 78,000 officers to 82,000 officers over the next four years were “not sufficient.”

Afghan police, who have less training and fewer weapons than Afghan and international soldiers, often bear the brunt of insurgent attacks.

“We need to devise programs which improve the Afghan government’s capability to defend itself and that means considerably strengthening the Afghan national army and the Afghan national police,” Holbrooke said on Saturday during a debate on the Afghan war in Brussels.

“We are looking in conjunction with our allies at a very significant increase,” he said.

European countries, not eager to send additional troops to fight, are currently being urged by Washington to provide military and police trainers, cash or other expertise to help stabilize Afghanistan. Holbrooke said the police force is now “riddled with corruption” and greater numbers of well-trained police would allow international troops in the country to focus on military operations rather than law enforcement.

The suicide car bombing that targeted a police checkpoint in the country’s eastern Nangarhar Province killed five civilians and one policeman, said police spokesman Gafor Khan.

The blast also wounded four civilians and a policeman at the security post, set up to search cars entering Chaparhar district to celebrate the Persian new year.

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