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3 Afghan Civilians Killed in U.S. Coalition Airstrike

From Associated Press

U.S. coalition warplanes attacked a rebel camp in a central Afghan province, killing a child and two other civilians along with four suspected militants, the U.S. military said Saturday.

The airstrike Friday came during a two-day offensive against insurgents in Oruzgan province, the U.S. military statement said.

In addition to the dead, two children were wounded and taken to a U.S. base for treatment, it said.

Oruzgan is a mountainous province that remains a rebel stronghold despite intense U.S. and Afghan military operations. A U.S. soldier was shot to death there Tuesday when his patrol was ambushed near Deh Rawod, 250 miles southwest of the capital, Kabul.

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Afghan officials and human rights groups have complained repeatedly about civilian casualties in American-led operations, saying heavy-handed tactics could stoke sympathy for militants who have maintained a stubborn insurgency since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

U.S. commanders insist they try to avoid hurting civilians and accuse militants of using them for protection.

In a separate incident Saturday, hundreds of protesters in the western city of Herat shouted anti-American slogans and demanded the return of an ousted regional strongman a day after a woman and her daughter were shot dead in unrest surrounding the 13th anniversary of the fall of Afghanistan’s last communist government.

Police said a soldier opened fire Friday evening when a crowd surged toward a city park. However, other officials and witnesses said shooting broke out during a row between troops and police.

Officials said the soldier was arrested and high-ranking officials from Kabul would investigate.

Still, hundreds of people marched from the home of former Gov. Ismail Khan to the office of his successor, Sayed Mohammed Khairkhwa, on Saturday.

Khairkhwa said police fired into the air to force the crowd back from his residence.

Khan, now a minister in President Hamid Karzai’s Cabinet, was a veteran leader of mujahedin rebels who fought occupying Soviet troops in the 1980s. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad had pressed for the removal of Khan, whom the central government accused of withholding customs revenue from the nearby Iranian border and whom the U.N. accused of holding up disarmament.

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