With the first elements of 30,000 additional US troops set to arrive in Afghanistan next week, the massacre of as many as 15 civilians in a US raid has heightened fears that the Obama administration’s so-called surge will spell a dramatic rise in bloodletting.
The killings took place in eastern Laghman province in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Gulzar Sangarwal, the acting head of the provincial council, reported that 13 civilians were killed in the raid on the village of Armul, including one woman. Local villagers reported 15 killed, including children. Reuters news agency said its correspondent had seen the bodies of a woman and 12 men, several of them teenagers.
Local authorities have blamed the killings on US Special Forces troops.
The deaths triggered an angry protest that ended in still more killings. According to Reuters, some 5,000 villagers marched on the provincial capital of Mehtar Lam chanting slogans denouncing the US occupation, the puppet government of President Hamid Karzai and the provincial authorities. The crowd shouted “Death to America, Death to Obama and Death to Karzai” as they marched through the town.
The villagers carried the bodies of the civilians slain in the US raid, laying them in front of the provincial governor’s house.
Soldiers from the Afghan National Army opened fire with live ammunition in an attempt to disperse the crowd, reportedly killing two demonstrators outright and mortally wounding two others, who died in the local hospital.