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Forces in Afghanistan Brace for Protests After US Forces Kill Civilians

05 March 2007

U.S. and Afghan forces are bracing for a possible backlash after at least eight Afghan civilians were killed in a military operation in eastern Afghanistan Sunday. Correspondent Benjamin Sand has more from VOA's South Asia bureau in Islamabad.

U.S. military officials in Afghanistan say Sunday's deadly incident was sparked by a suicide bomb attack on an American Marine convoy - not far from the eastern city of Jalalabad.

The Marines say they opened fired after an explosives-packed vehicle rammed their convoy and militants attacked with machine guns.

Spokesman Major Chris Belcher says civilians were killed in the exchange.

"There are reports of death and injuries to Afghan nationals confirmed by Afghan and coalition authorities," Belcher says.

Local eyewitnesses say American soldiers fired indiscriminately into groups of Afghan cars and pedestrians as they tried to escape the area.

Protests erupted almost immediately in the region and troops are braced for angry demonstrations.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly denounced U.S. and coalition military action that harms civilians. It is a major concern for Afghans who have endured more than three decades of foreign invasion and civil unrest.

U.S. and NATO troops are in Afghanistan to provide security and fight a militant insurgency by the former Taleban - which was ousted from power in 2001 for helping al-Qaida terrorists.

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