13 Afghan demonstrators killed by NATOPosted: January 13, 2010
First Published: Jan. 13, 2010 – Al Jazeera
Villagers in southern Afghanistan have claimed that Afghan and Nato forces killed 13 demonstrators after a group of people took to the streets to protest the alleged desecration of the Quran.
Residents in Garmsir district of Helmand province on Tuesday said that Nato-led forces raided a house in the area on Sunday and destroyed copies of the holy book in a local mosque.
Haji Abdul Manan, one of the protesters, told the German Press Agency, DPA: “The people came out of their homes today to protest this action of foreign forces in a peaceful way, but the Afghan and international forces opened fire on us.”
He said more than 20 others were wounded in the firing.
Habibullah Jan, another protester said: “We have proof that they destroyed our holy Quran. We can show them to [President Hamid] Karzai’s government or the foreign forces.”
A security official in the province said six people were killed in the shooting, but said they were investigating to find out whether they were civilians or Taliban-linked fighters.
The Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf), however, has rejected the allegations, saying Afghan forces backed by coalition troops had conducted an operation in the area on Sunday, but not a shot was fired and no one was detained.
“The joint force protected the dignity of all innocent civilians during the operation,” the Isaf statement said.
The statement said an Afghan official was shot during Tuesday’s protest, adding that “Isaf service members identified the insurgent sniper, shot and killed him. There were no other injuries or shots fired,” it said.
Major General Michael Regner, an Isaf spokesman, said: “As partners with the Afghan people, we will thoroughly investigate allegations to determine the facts.”
Hundreds of people protested against US forces last year after claims that troops desecrated the Quran in the central province of Wardak in October.
Both the Afghan and US officials rejected the allegations and said it was part of Taliban propaganda to provoke public anger against the international forces in the country.
There are more than 110,000 international troops currently in the country including around 68,000 US troops.
As part of a military escalation to turn the tide against the Taliban fighters, the US government has planned to send 30,000 additional soldiers by summer.