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Afghan night raid sparks anti-U.S. protest

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KABUL — Hundreds of people took to the streets in a town in northeastern Afghanistan Thursday in protest over a night raid by Afghan and NATO forces that allegedly killed six civilians, an official said.

A woman and a child were among the dead in the air and ground raid on Dewa Gul Vally, a Taliban stronghold in the Chawki district of Kunar province, on Monday night, provincial governor Fazlullah Wahidi told AFP.

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“The raid was not coordinated with us. Those killed were civilians, among them a woman and a child,” Wahidi said. “Now the people are demanding justice.”

Angry protesters in Chawki chanted slogans condemning both NATO forces and the Afghan government as they marched through the centre of the district, he added.

A spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul confirmed there was an operation in the area on Monday and said it was investigating reports of civilian casualties.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai had sent a delegation to investigate the incident, his office said in a statement, adding that witnesses said six civilians were killed.

US-led coalition troops and Afghan special forces launch regular kill-and-capture raids under cover of darkness against suspected Taliban insurgents.

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But repeated allegations of civilian deaths have provoked criticism from Karzai and anger among the Afghan public.

ISAF defends the operations as the safest way of targeting insurgent leaders, insisting they will continue but with the increasing involvement of Afghan special forces.

It says that in 85 percent of night raids no shot is fired and they cause less than one percent of civilian casualties.

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Some 130,000 NATO troops are fighting an insurgency by hardline Taliban Islamists who were ousted from government in a US-led invasion after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.

The United Nations has reported that the number of civilians killed in violence in Afghanistan rose by 15 percent in the first half of 2011 to 1,462, with insurgents blamed for 80 percent of the killings.

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