One killed, 3 wounded in violent protests in eastern Afghanistan

JALALABAD, Afghanistan Sat May 14, 2011 2:40pm IST

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JALALABAD, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Hundreds of Afghans protested on Saturday against the accidental killing of a teenage boy by NATO-led forces in a volatile eastern province, and the district governor said one man was shot dead as police fired at the crowd after it turned violent.

District governor Abdul Khaliq Mahroof told Reuters demonstrators had poured into the streets in the Hesarak district of eastern Nangarhar province to denounce the overnight killing of a 15-year-old boy by Afghan and foreign troops.

The mistaken killing of civilians by foreign troops is a major source of friction between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Western backers, and complicates efforts to win support from ordinary Afghans for the war against the Taliban.

"It all started with hundreds of demonstrators throwing stones and later firing weapons," Mahroof said, adding that the protest had now ended.

"The police had to fire back at some of the protesters who were armed and one was killed and three wounded."

Mahroof said insurgents had infiltrated the crowd. He said he did not know whether the dead or wounded protesters had been among those who fired at the police.

Hesarak borders Kabul province and lies some 70 km (40) miles southeast of the capital.

In a statement issued early on Saturday, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said its troops had mistakenly killed a 15-year-old boy during an operation with Afghan forces to capture a Taliban insurgent in Hesarak.

Afghan and foreign troops called for the boy to come out of his room while they carried out a raid on his compound in search of a Taliban leader, ISAF said in the statement.

After hearing the troops calling, the boy, who had a shotgun and a pistol by the side of his bed, reached for one of the weapons, it said.

"As a force protection measure, a security force member engaged the individual, resulting in his death. After initial assessment, it was discovered the individual was a local 15-year old male," ISAF said.

Many Afghans, particularly in rural areas, keep weapons in their homes for their own protection against intruders.

The teenager's killing was the second such incident this week. On Thursday, Afghan and foreign troops killed a policeman and a girl during a raid on their compound, also in Nangarhar.

Violence in Afghanistan is at its worst since the Taliban were overthrown by U.S.-backed Afghan forces almost 10 years ago with record casualties on all sides.

A U.N. report this year showed that 2010 was by far the most lethal for Afghan civilians with a total of 2,777 civilians killed, up 15 percent on the previous year.

While the United Nations says insurgents were responsible for 75 percent of those deaths, it is those caused by foreign troops that angers ordinary Afghans the most. Anti-Western sentiment is also running high a month after a fundamentalist U.S. pastor burned a Koran.

(Reporting by Rafiq Sherzad, additional reporting by Hamid Shalizi in KABUL; Writing by Jonathon Burch, editing by Miral Fahmy)

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