'Death to Canada,' some Afghan protesters chant
Hundreds ofenraged Afghans, some chanting"death to Canada," blocked a highway Wednesdayfollowing a raid by foreign troops that left two religious leaders dead.
Protesters accused Canadian and Americansoldiers of killing the two during raids overnight Tuesday on houses in Senjaray, a community on the outskirts of Kandahar city. It is in the Zhari district, a hotbed of Taliban activity west of the city.
About 500 protesters shut down the main highway out of Kandahar city about 7 a.m. local time with some chanting "death to Canada" and "death to foreigners" and calling on foreign troops to leave the country.
Canadianmilitary officialshave denied involvement in the raids byboth theirown soldiers and NATO's.
One Afghan man at the protesttold CBC News that he had guests in his house when soldiers burst into the building. "The soldiers tied their hands and feet, covered their eyes and took them away," he said. Another witnesssaid the raids were byAmerican and Canadian soldiers, who took eight peopleand killed two.
"They're killing our young men," one protester told an interpreter for the Canadian Press. "The day is not far when these innocent civilians will stand against NATO and other foreign troops."
Witnesses also told the Canadian Press that known members of the Taliban were at the demonstration. In the end, Afghan elders in the district quelled the protest.
Anger was also directed at Afghan President Hamid Karzai for allowing the international presence in the country, and protesterscondemned Afghan intelligence officers for corruption and extortion.
"Their informers are giving them wrong information," one protester told CP, referring to the information that led to the raids. "It is disgusting."
International forces have come under scathing criticism for civilian casualties in Afghanistan, and Karzai has said they undermine efforts to win the trust of the people.
Although verification is extremely difficult as fighting continues, independent counts of civilian deaths by the United Nations and the Associated Press suggest that about 600 civilians have been killed so far this year by both sides.
The international coalition says the Taliban has falsely reported civilian deaths in order to discredit foreign troops and undermine their efforts with the public.
Zhari district chief Habib Sanzarai told Al-Jazeera that foreign forces should co-ordinate operations with Afghan security forces "in order to avoid misunderstanding."
"If these actions against ordinary people are not stopped, more people will pick up arms and will fight the government and its foreign allies for justice."
Zhari district is the birthplace of the Taliban movement and an area where Canadian forces have been concentrating recent operations on re-establishing control.
Habibullah Jan, a lawmaker from Sanzari village, told the Associated Press that NATO forces were responsible for the deaths.
He warned that if international forces continued to target civilians, "people will take up arms against the government and NATO."
- Only some of the Afghans protesters chanted "death to Canada," not hundreds as originally reported.Sep 28, 2007 10:50 AM ET
With files from the Canadian Press