April 5, 2011
MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan (Reuters) – NATO troops killed six civilians during a night raid on a house in northern Afghanistan’s Sar-e Pul province late, the provincial governor told Reuters.
The NATO-led force said soldiers on a joint operation with Afghan troops had killed five men who were armed and opened fire on them. They are investigating the identity of the dead men, a spokesman said.
Afghans are allowed by law to own guns, and in rural areas many do, to protect against threats from bandits, militias or rivals with weapons.
Critics of night raids say people confused at being woken from sleep may open fire on troops who arrive under cover of darkness, even if they have no insurgent links.
The deaths come at a time of high anti-Western sentiment, after several days of protests against the burning of a Koran presided over by a fundamentalist U.S. pastor. Some of the demonstrations have turned violent and more than 20 people have been killed including 7 foreign U.N. staffers.
Four men were also detained in the late Monday raid in Sayad district, and initial information suggested only one was an insurgent, governor Sayed Anwar Rahmati told Reuters.
“NATO troops descended from a helicopter, killing six innocent men and detained four,” the governor told Reuters by telephone from Sar-e Pul.
Civilian casualties caused by foreign troops have long been a source of tension between President Hamid Karzai and his Western allies. They also anger Afghans, complicating efforts to win their support for a war that has brought only misery for most ordinary people.
NATO said the operation was targeting the shadow governor of Sar-e Pul who is a “key power-broker” in the north, runs suicide attack training camps and helps bring in fighters from outside the country. (Reporting by Mohammad Bashir and Hamid Shalizi; Writing by Emma Graham-Harrison; Editing by Robert Birsel)