Afghanistan: US kills more civilians

From the Pakistan Tribune. June 2:

KABUL: U.S. troops fired into a crowd of hundreds of stone-throwing rioters, killing at least three Afghans, as their convoy left the scene of an accident that triggered Monday’s anti-American riots, Kabul’s chief of highway police said.

General Amanullah Gozar told Reuters on Thursday he had witnessed the entire incident, from the point when a U.S. military truck ran out of control down a hill, crashing into vehicles and killing at least five people, to the clashes afterwards, when U.S. troops opened fire.

“As a result of their firing, one young boy and two other people were killed,” Gozar said.

The U.S. military says small arms fire was heard coming from the crowd, and the crowd overpowered a police line formed to protect the convoy as they tended to injured and collected the damaged vehicle before withdrawing.

“Our soldiers thought they were being fired on from the crowd and they fired their weapons in self defense,” said Lieutenant Tamara Lawrence, a spokeswoman at the U.S.-led coalition headquarters in Kabul. She said an investigation was still in its early stages.

At a news conference a day earlier, Colonel Tom Collins said video footage showed troops fired a machine gun mounted on one of the 12 vehicles in the convoy, but aimed over the heads of the crowd. He said he did not know whether soldiers at any time fired directly into the crowd.

The United States and the western-back government of President Hamid Karzai can ill afford the controversy, with an insurgency in the south and east passing through its bloodiest phase since the overthrow of the Taliban government in late 2001.

More than 900 people have been killed so far this year, about half of that number in May alone.

In the hours that followed Monday’s accident, rioters rampaged through central Kabul. They looted shops, besieged a private television station and burned the offices of a U.S. aid group before reaching the gates of parliament and the U.S. embassy.

At least seven people were killed in the bloody aftermath of the road crash, and five in the accident itself.

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