Page 2 of 2   <      

Shooting by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan fuels Karzai's anger

"We want night raids to be stopped entirely. We want house searches to be stopped. We want civilian casualties to be minimized," he said.

Monday's shooting occurred as the bus was passing through the Zhari district of Kandahar province. The NATO statement said the incident began when a large vehicle approached a slow-moving NATO convoy from behind at "a high rate of speed." The convoy, sweeping the road for bombs, could not get out of the way of the oncoming vehicle because of a steep embankment, the statement said.

NATO said the troops in the convoy followed procedure, using a flashlight, three flares and hand signals to warn the vehicle to stop. When none of that worked, they opened fire. "Once engaged, the vehicle then stopped," the statement said. "Upon inspection, ISAF forces discovered the vehicle to be a passenger bus."

But Abdul Ghani, an Afghan man who told The Washington Post in a telephone interview that he was the driver of the bus, said the soldiers "didn't give me any kind of signal. . . . They just opened fire. No signal at all."

Ghani's account could not be independently confirmed, and other news organizations quoted a different person who said he was the driver. But Ghani, 35, related to The Post specific details about the bus and the incident that suggest he knew what had occurred.

He said the green and white 1984 German vehicle left a Kandahar city bus depot at 4:30 a.m., bound for Nimruz province, seven hours away. Half an hour into the trip, the bus drove up behind the U.S. convoy. The gunfire erupted when the bus was 80 to 100 meters behind the convoy, he said.

The bullets tore into the passenger side of the windshield and struck several rows. The American soldiers walked around the bus after the shooting stopped, Ghani said, then climbed on board without speaking to him. "They saw the people who were killed and left them there. And then they took the injured ones and started doing first aid immediately."

Ghani said he was eventually was able to drive the bus back to the city. "Why we are being killed by these people?" he said. "They are here to protect us, not to kill us."

Special correspondent Javed Hamdard in Kabul and a special correspondent in Kandahar City contributed to this report.

<       2

© 2010 The Washington Post Company