June 1, 2006

US troops shot 3 Afghans in crowd: police chief

By Sayed Salahuddin

KABUL (Reuters) - U.S. troops fired into a crowd of
hundreds of stone-throwing rioters, killing at least three
Afghans, as their convoy left the scene of an accident that
triggered Monday's anti-American riots, Kabul's chief of
highway police said.

General Amanullah Gozar told Reuters on Thursday he had
witnessed the entire incident, from the point when a U.S.
military truck ran out of control down a hill, crashing into
vehicles and killing at least five people, to the clashes
afterwards, when U.S. troops opened fire.

"As a result of their firing, one young boy and two other
people were killed," Gozar said.

The U.S. military says small arms fire was heard coming
from the crowd, and the crowd overpowered a police line formed
to protect the convoy as they tended to injured and collected
the damaged vehicle before withdrawing.

"Our soldiers thought they were being fired on from the
crowd and they fired their weapons in self defense," said
Lieutenant Tamara Lawrence, a spokeswoman at the U.S.-led
coalition headquarters in Kabul. She said an investigation was
still in its early stages.

At a news conference a day earlier, Colonel Tom Collins
said video footage showed troops fired a machine gun mounted on
one of the 12 vehicles in the convoy, but aimed over the heads
of the crowd. He said he did not know whether soldiers at any
time fired directly into the crowd.

The United States and the western-back government of
President Hamid Karzai can ill afford the controversy, with an
insurgency in the south and east passing through its bloodiest
phase since the overthrow of the Taliban government in late

More than 900 people have been killed so far this year,
about half of that number in May alone.

In the hours that followed Monday's accident, rioters
rampaged through central Kabul. They looted shops, besieged a
private television station and burned the offices of a U.S. aid
group before reaching the gates of parliament and the U.S.

At least seven people were killed in the bloody aftermath
of the road crash, and five in the accident itself.