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US pledges probe into Afghanistan riots

President Bush spoke to his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai and pledged a comprehensive probe into the riots.

india Updated: Jun 01, 2006 13:46 IST
Associated Press
Associated Press

The United States promised to investigate deadly riots that paralysed Afghanistan's capital as its Parliament called for the prosecution of US military personnel involved in a fatal traffic accident that sparked the unrest.

Hundreds of Taliban militants meanwhile overran a police district headquarters on Wednesday, in the latest sign that the Afghan government has only shaky control over the countryside.

The anti-foreigner riots kicked off in the Afghan capital on Monday after a US military truck killed up to five Afghans.

Rampaging mobs looted stores and torched some government buildings and offices of international organisations.

Up to 20 Afghans were killed and more than 160 wounded, mostly from gunshots. The situation has since calmed, but Kabul remains under night curfew.

On Wednesday, US President George W Bush spoke from Washington with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and pledged a comprehensive probe into the riots, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said.

"They talked about recent developments and the need to continue with police reform and capacity building," Snow said in Washington.

"The president expressed sympathy for those killed and injured in Kabul on Monday and pledged a full investigation."

The National Assembly, or lower house, meanwhile debated the unrest and passed a non-binding motion that called for the American soldiers involved in the crash to be prosecuted.

A US military spokeswoman, Lt Tamara D Lawrence, said she had not seen the parliamentary motion and declined to comment, as did a spokesman for Karzai, Khaleeq Ahmed.

It seems unlikely that the motion would lead to any action. US military personnel in Afghanistan come under American military jurisdiction, although foreigners working on civilian projects are generally subject to Afghan law.

Another military spokesman, Col Tom Collins, told reporters that the driver of the truck was not suspected of any wrongdoing and had not been arrested.

He said the truck's brakes are believed to have overheated and failed.

However, he said the military was investigating whether the troops involved in the crash fired their guns into a group of violent demonstrators or over their heads.

He said some of the rioters who were throwing stones at the US troops also had weapons and were firing at them.

Afghanistan's post-Taliban security forces of 58,000 police and 38,000 soldiers are teaming up with more than 30,000 US-led coalition and NATO troops aiming to calm the country.

But security has worsened since the rebels stepped up attacks this spring. In the past two weeks alone, more than 400 people, mostly militants, have been killed in fighting.

First Published: Jun 01, 2006 12:49 IST