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NATO NIGHT RAID SPARKS VIOLENT AFGHAN PROTEST THAT KILLS 12

New York Times

KABUL, Afghanistan - A normally peaceful northern Afghan city erupted in violence Wednesday as thousands of protesters clashed with security forces after a NATO night raid that officials said killed four civilians. NATO defended the operation and said the four people who were killed, two of them women, were armed insurgents.

At least a dozen people were killed Wednesday as protesters armed with Kalashnikov rifles, axes, grenades and gasoline bombs battled with the police on the streets of Taliqan, the capital of Takhar province, in the northeast, then assaulted a small NATO base on the city's outskirts, local officials and witnesses said.

The protesters chanted "Death to Americans" and "Death to Karzai," referring to President Hamid Karzai, as they hurled firebombs and rocks at the German-run NATO outpost, officials said. Some also fired guns. Smoke rising from the base could be seen across the city.

Security forces quelled the riot after several hours, but not before dozens of people, including women and children, had been killed or injured. Dr. Hassan Baseej, director of the provincial health department, said that 12 bodies and 80 people with wounds had been transported to the provincial hospital by early afternoon and that more victims of the violence were expected.

Two German soldiers and three Afghan guards were also wounded in the attack, said Abdul Jabar Taqwa, the provincial governor. It was not immediately known whether NATO forces were involved in trying to subdue the protesters, or opened fire on them. Taqwa condemned the NATO raid that precipitated the riot but also blamed Taliban agents for stirring up the crowd of 3,000 to 4,000 people during what was intended to be a peaceful demonstration.

Night raids have been a source of tension between NATO and Afghan officials, including Karzai, who has said they frequently lead to civilian casualties and deepened popular distrust of the government and NATO forces.

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