AMIR SHAH and RAHIM FAIEZ | 12/30/09 01:00 PM |
KABUL (AP) – The head of a presidential delegation investigating the deaths of 10 people in eastern Afghanistan concluded Wednesday that civilians – including schoolchildren – were killed in an attack involving foreign troops, disputing NATO reports that the dead were insurgents.
Asadullah Wafa, a senior adviser to President Hamid Karzai, told The Associated Press by telephone that eight schoolchildren between the ages of 12 and 14 were among the dead discovered in a village house in the Narang district of Kunar province.
A NATO official has said initial reports from troops involved in the fighting on Sunday indicated that those killed were insurgents – all young males.
Civilian deaths are one of the most sensitive issues for foreign troops in Afghanistan, especially now when some additional 37,000 U.S. and NATO troops are being deployed to the war-ravaged country. Although far more civilians are killed by the Taliban, those blamed on international forces spark widespread resentment and undermine the fight against militants.
Several hundred Afghans protested the deaths Wednesday in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad and in the capital of Kabul. In Jalalabad, they burned President Barack Obama's effigy and an American flag, chanting "death" to Obama and Karzai.
In Kabul, protesters chanted, "Unity, unity, death to the enemy of Islam!" and a protester with a bullhorn called on Obama to "take your soldiers out of Afghanistan."
Wafa said he was convinced all those killed in the Kunar incident were innocent civilians.
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