South Asia

Afghanistan: 'Twelve dead' at protest over Nato raid

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Media captionHundreds of protesters took to the streets in Taloqan

At least 12 people have been shot and killed by security forces in northern Afghanistan during a protest against a Nato-led raid, officials say.

The clashes with security forces in the city of Taloqan left 80 others injured.

Some 2,000 demonstrators, some of them armed, took part. They looted shops and tried to attack a German army base.

Four people, two of them women, were killed in the Nato-led raid. Nato said they were insurgents. Protesters and local police say all were civilians.

The night raid deaths have been condemned by President Hamid Karzai, who said the Afghan government had repeatedly warned Nato "about such irresponsible operations".

A statement released by the president said that the government would now ask Nato commanders for further explanations into the "exact circumstances of the incident".

Civilians deaths at the hands of Nato forces are a major cause of anger among Afghans.

An official in Taloqan said that the Afghan National Army and a rapid reaction force had been deployed and the situation was now mostly under control. Reinforcements had been called in from neighbouring Kunduz province, he said.

The official said that some of the 2,000 demonstrators were armed and had destroyed public and private property. The protesters insist that those killed had nothing to do with the insurgency.

Unpopular raids

The violence appears to have begun when protesters angered over the night-time raid placed the bodies of those killed in the main square of Taloqan.

Chanting "Death to America" and "Death to [President] Karzai", they were confronted by police and security forces who opened fire as they headed towards the German base.

Some of the crowd carried axes and shovels. A senior Afghan official in Takhar told the BBC that two German soldiers were injured in the unrest.

The official said the house targeted in the night raid was a meeting point for several militant Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) members. One report said that a senior IMU leader was killed.

The Afghan authorities say that the raid was conducted unilaterally by Nato, but the alliance says it was a joint operation with Afghan forces and that the Takhar provincial governor was told about it before it took place.

Takhar police chief Shah Jahan Noori, who lives near the site of the raid, told the Reuters news agency that there were no insurgents in the area and that it had been based on "false intelligence".

"This will only create distance between ordinary people, the government and its international partners," he said.

The Nato-led mission says that two women and two men were killed in the night raid on the outskirts of the city. It said that the women were armed, one with an assault rifle, the other with a pistol.

The BBC's Quentin Sommerville in Kabul says that female insurgents are rare, but not unheard of.

Our correspondent says that night raids are deeply unpopular, but have been effective at finding and killing insurgent commanders.

They form a key part of Nato's counter-insurgency strategy - but many Afghans, including President Karzai - have said they must end.

A few days ago the accidental killing by foreign troops of a 15-year-old boy led to a demonstration in Nangarhar province in which one protester was killed and five wounded.