Security tight in Kabul after anti-US riots | india | Hindustan Times
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Security tight in Kabul after anti-US riots

The unrest was triggered by a US soldier who lost control of his truck and smashed into a dozen vehicles killing civilians.

india Updated: May 30, 2006 13:46 IST

Afghan troops patrolled the streets of the capital of Kabul on Tuesday after the worst anti-US riots since the fall of the Taliban in 2001 killed at least eight people.

"It is peaceful, there is no violence," said Mohammad Shafiq Fazli, Kabul's deputy police chief of Kabul, as the city awoke from a night-long curfew.

Monday's unrest was triggered by a US soldier who lost control of his truck and smashed into a dozen vehicles killing at least five Afghans.

Furious residents stoned the convoy the truck was travelling in, prompting at least one of the US vehicles to fire warning shots in the air, according to the US military.

The situation deteriorated further as Afghan police also opened fire to assist the convoy.

An Afghan health ministry official said at least eight people were killed in the clashes, though he said the figure could be higher.

While tight security had restored order on Tuesday morning, Afghan resentment of the behaviour of US troops still seethed.

"The Americans drive carelessly, they do not care about the life of innocent people," said Abdul Karim, 28.

"They worry about their own safety. They only care about themselves," said the Kabul resident, though he believed some criminals had hijacked the protests to go on a crime spree.

There were two Afghan army tanks on the road leading to the city centre from the site of the incident on the northern outskirts of Kabul.

Heavily armed soldiers and armoured personnel carriers were stationed at key crossroads, and police quick reaction forces were deployed in front of Kabul University, where students were planning a protest.

By mid-morning, pavements were bustling with people and cars jammed the roads as usual, though initially residents appeared cautious about coming out.

NATO peacekeepers were coordinating closely with the Afghan authorities, but were less in evident in the city.

"We are patrolling, but we are adopting a lower profile at the request of the government," Major Luke Knittig, a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force, told Reuters.

During Monday's mayhem, a detachment of British Royal Marines were sent into the centre of Kabul to successfully evacuate 21 European Union diplomats and staff, including a baby and a four-year-old child, as mobs swept through the area close to

Protesters vilified the United States, marching through the streets of the city to the gates of the National Assembly and US embassy. President Hamid Karzai was also criticised.

There was rioting and looting in the downtown area, cars were set on fire, shops' and banks' windows smashed, and the offices of international aid groups ransacked.

The office of US-based Care International was set ablaze during the chaos.

Karzai, in a televised address to the nation, called the rioters "opportunists and agitators" who could not be allowed to destroy a country still trying to emerge from conflict that has gripped it since 1979.

Karzai won an election in late 2004, winning more than 50 percent of the vote, but he has been unable to shake off the perception that he owes his position to US backing.

Seen as a force for peace and stability and a guarantor of Western financial support for the reconstruction of the economy, Karzai is going through a difficult time.

A Taliban insurgency raging in the south and east has endured its bloodiest period in the past five years, with 350 people killed in the last couple of weeks alone.

Karzai's critics call him the "mayor of Kabul", because of the instability in the rural provinces, but Monday's unrest showed the fragility of the situation in the capital, as people are frustrated by the lack of improvement in their daily lives.