Democracy Dies in Darkness

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Afghan forces clear Kabul protest camps, 1 dead in the clashes

By Sayed Salahuddin

June 20, 2017 at 4:29 AM

In this Friday, June 2 photo, protesters throw stones at police during a demonstration in Kabul over the country’s deteriorating security situation. (AP/)

by Sayed Salahuddin

KABUL — Afghan security forces opened fire on demonstrators armed with sticks, killing one, as they cleared away a protest camp in the early hours of Tuesday that had occupied a busy avenue for the last three weeks.

Organizer Ramish Noori said the clashes took place in the middle of the night and one person was killed and several wounded when security forces opened fire. He added that others were arrested.

Videos of the clashes posted on social media showed several wounded men lying on the street as well as the body of the man organizers say was shot by the police. Despite repeated efforts to contact them, security officials and government spokesmen were unavailable for comment.

The country's chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah, however, confirmed on live TV that one protester had been killed and six others wounded. He called for an investigation into the clash.

"Last night's event in Kabul has shocked all of us," he said.

Protesters have expressed frustration with the U.S.-backed President Ashraf Ghani and his inability to stem the rising tide of violence, including a devastating truck bomb on May 31 in Kabul that killed 150 people.

After police opened fire on an anti-government protest three weeks ago, protesters set up tents vowing to remain until the president resigned.

The avenue where the clash took place was still closed by midmorning on Tuesday, but all signs of the clash had been washed away.

"Tonight's move against the protesters … is not acceptable and the government is responsible for any legal and humanitarian violation," Fawzia Koofi, a female lawmaker said in a message.

Omar Ahmad Parwani, an organizer of the protest, called for massive anti-government marches and blocking key roads in the capital.

While frustration has been high among Afghans with Ghani's government because of the poor economy, corruption and the rising number of attacks, the sit-in never attracted more than a few dozen protesters at a time and many residents complained that it worsened the city's already congested traffic.

While police were clashing with the protesters, eight Afghans working at Bagram airbase, the largest U.S. military facility in the country, were shot dead on their way there, according to the local police chief.

"We cannot rule out anything — enemy attack, local or tribal hostility," Mohammad Zaman Mamozai said by phone. He said two other occupants of the vehicle suffered bullet wounds and are under treatment.

A Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the Taliban insurgents were behind the deadly ambush, describing the victims as men who worked as spies for years for the U.S. military.

Attacks by the Taliban and their Islamic State rivals have been on the rise in Afghanistan as the U.S. completes plans to send several thousand more troops to bolster Afghan forces and the 8,500 U.S. troops already there.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who has been given authority by President Trump to set troop levels in the Afghan conflict, recently said that the U.S. is "not winning" in Afghanistan.

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