Karzai slams foreign troops for civilian casualties


Kabul : Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai slammed foreign forces Wednesday for causing civilian deaths in the country, as more than 1,000 university students took to streets and chanted “Death to America” slogans in eastern Afghanistan.

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US-led coalition forces claimed on Sunday and Monday having killed over 140 suspected Taliban in two separate raids in eastern and western Afghanistan, but Afghan governmental officials and tribal leaders said that a majority of the dead were civilians.

“We can no longer accept our civilian casualties,” Karzai said after meeting with NATO officials in his office.

“We are very sorry when an international coalition force, NATO, soldier loses his life or is wounded. It pains us. But Afghans are human beings too. We like our people to see safety and security, especially during the conduct of operations.

“Extra care should be taken and an Afghan involvement in searches of homes in conduct of operations of that nature is an absolute necessity, which in spite of our efforts for the past four years has not somehow developed and that is something that must be changed, must be corrected or the consequences will be bad for all of us.”

At least six civilians including two women were killed in a raid in Bati Kot district of Nangarhar province by US Special Forces Sunday. Angry local residents placed the bodies of the victims on the highway and blocked traffic on the busy link to neighbouring Pakistan later.

Dozens of civilians were also among more than 130 killed in western Heart province in an operation that lasted three days.

“Unfortunately the suffering of Afghanistan in certain parts of the country has not ended. We still suffer, either by the operations of terrorists or as the consequence of operations by NATO,” Karzai said.

“We still keep losing our civilian lives. Now, the intention may be very good in these operations to fight terrorism. Sometimes mistakes may be made as well, but five years on, it is very difficult for us to continue to accept civilian casualties,” he said.

Karzai in the past has asked the NATO and coalition forces to coordinate with Afghan security forces and to stop searching the homes of civilians without the permission of his government.

“Unfortunately, that cooperation and coordination as we tried it has not given us the result that we want,” an emotional Karzai said.

“I hope the international community finds ways with us, with our relevant ministries, a mechanism that will bring an end to collateral damage,” he added.

Hundreds of protesters stormed the police headquarters and administrative offices in Shindand district of western Heart province on Monday, after US forces killed dozens of civilians during the operation from last Friday to Sunday.

More than 1,000 civilians were among over 4,000 people killed in the fighting last year, making it the worst year for the US-back government since the ouster of the Taliban in late 2001.