Nine people were killed when shooting broke out during a mass demonstration in a provincial Afghan town over the alleged burning of a Koran by foreign troops, police said on Wednesday.
The violence erupted yesterday in the Garmsir district of the southern province of Helmand over rumours that NATO-led forces had defiled a copy of the Muslim holy book during a military operation, local residents and police said.
NATO said it had no information confirming the civilian deaths, but that it was investigating the incident along with Afghan security officials.
"Eight protesters were killed when the protesters attacked national security officials in Garmsir," deputy provincial police chief Kamaluddin Khan told AFP.
The protesters were shot after an Afghan guard outside a nearby building was killed by gunfire "from the demonstrators' side," he said.
Khan said 13 civilians and two Afghan policemen were also wounded in the incident.
NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement yesterday that its troops had shot dead only one "insurgent sniper" who had killed an Afghan official in the Garmsir area.
But a spokesman for the force said there was no information to back up claims of civilian deaths in the incident, adding that investigations with Afghan security officials were under way.