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U.S.-Afghan mission kills 5

March 15, 2009|Associated Press

ASSOCIATED PRESS KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — A helicopter-borne special operations mission by U.S. and Afghan forces Saturday killed five people south of Kabul, sparking an angry protest from villagers who said the dead were civilians.

The U.S. military said that the combined forces called for suspects in a house to surrender during the overnight raid, but that militants opened fire, forcing the troops to fire back. It said the mission targeted the leader of a cell that makes roadside bombs.

But a spokesman for the governor of Logar province said an official delegation went to the site and confirmed that five civilians had been killed.

Villagers gathered in protest near a government compound and police opened fire on them to prevent them from storming the building, said the governor's spokesman, Den Mohammad Darwesh. Two people were wounded, he said.

U.S. spokesman Col. Greg Julian denied that any civilians were killed in the mission.

"They were five armed militants that fired on a joint force . . . when they went in to get a targeted individual," Julian said. "They called them out when they arrived, and these guys came out shooting."

The forces later found grenades and other weapons, a U.S. statement said.

In January, nearly 3,000 U.S. soldiers were deployed in Logar and neighboring Wardak province after militants had established a foothold there.

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