Civilians deaths main source of Afghan anger - group

KABUL Tue Dec 23, 2008 4:55pm IST

People take part in a protest after an air strike in Azizabad district of Shindand, in Afghanistan in this August 23, 2008 file photo. Civilian deaths in air strikes by foreign forces and violent night raids in Afghanistan are the main cause of Afghan anger against foreign troops, a rights body said on Tuesday. REUTERS/Mohammad Shoiab

People take part in a protest after an air strike in Azizabad district of Shindand, in Afghanistan in this August 23, 2008 file photo. Civilian deaths in air strikes by foreign forces and violent night raids in Afghanistan are the main cause of Afghan anger against foreign troops, a rights body said on Tuesday.

Credit: Reuters/Mohammad Shoiab

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KABUL (Reuters) - Civilian deaths in air strikes by foreign forces and violent night raids in Afghanistan are the main cause of Afghan anger against foreign troops, a rights body said on Tuesday.

Hundreds of Afghans have been killed in U.S. air strikes this year, undermining public support for the continued presence of NATO-led and U.S. coalition troops in Afghanistan and leading to a rift between President Hamid Karzai and his Western backers.

Quoting a U.N. estimate, Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission said in a report that 695 civilians were killed this year until October in raids by foreign and Afghan troops while hunting the Taliban.

"Large air strikes resulting in tens of civilian casualties were a national focal point of anger toward PGF (pro-government forces)," said the report titled "From Hope to Fear", referring to Afghan and foreign troops.

"While night-time house searches resulted in fewer deaths, night raids frequently involved abusive behaviour and violent breaking and entry at night, which stoke almost as much anger toward PGF as the more lethal air strikes."

The commission recommended more coordination between foreign troops and the Afghan government, an end to night-time operations and an offer of justice to victims by the Afghan administration and governments contributing troops.

Taking action against those responsible for any violations was also part of its recommendations.

U.S.-led troops with the help of Afghan warlords overthrew the Taliban government seven years ago for harbouring al Qaeda leaders after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Karzai, who has led Afghanistan since the Taliban's ouster, has repeatedly urged foreign troops to coordinate operations with his government to minimise civilian casualties and to also put an end to house searches.

Karzai flew to the southeastern province of Khost on Tuesday to offer condolences to those who have lost family members in operations by foreign troops.

He promised to hold a Loya Jirga, a traditional assembly convened mostly for debating major issues, to discuss the response to civilian casualties.

(Additional reporting by Elyas Wahdat)

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