KABUL, Afghanistan – Irate demonstrators burned tires and blocked traffic in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday after U.S.-led forces killed an armed relative of an Afghan lawmaker during a night raid on her home, according to military and Afghan officials.
The confrontation was another setback for the American-led military coalition in Afghanistan, which has declared an aim of reducing civilian deaths and winning support from skeptical Afghans as it prepares for a prolonged summer offensive meant to hobble the Taliban.
U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the head of coalition forces in Afghanistan, has issued a series of orders meant to curtail civilian deaths, which alienate the public and provide fodder for insurgents.
McChrystal recently put new constraints on controversial night raids, requiring Afghan forces to play an integral role and to take the lead when homes are entered.
The American military said Afghan soldiers took part in Wednesday night’s deadly search, but the Afghan family that was caught up in the raid questioned that contention.
“I didn’t see any Afghan forces,” said Shah Fasial Sidiqi, the younger brother of Afghan lawmaker Safiya Sidiqi and one of those whom U.S. forces held for several hours during the raid.
Demonstrators took to the streets in Nangarhar province Thursday as Safiya Sidiqi denounced the U.S. for the raid that killed one of her relatives.
“I was afraid of Taliban, and now I can say the Americans are the enemy of the women of Afghanistan,” she told McClatchy Newspapers.
Sidiqi wasn’t home when the raid began late Wednesday night at her village in Nangarhar province, east of Kabul.
However, her brother, Shah Fasial Sidiqi, a resident of Canada who’d returned to Afghanistan earlier this week to visit his family, was there when the Americans came looking for a Taliban leader.
He said that more than 80 U.S. soldiers took over the family compound before midnight. The Americans tied up 15 men, women and children and blindfolded the Sidiqi relatives, he said.
He said he told the Americans that they were taking over the home of a lawmaker. “They said, ‘We know.’ ” During the search, Safiya Sidiqi said, one of her brothers-in-law emerged from a neighboring house with an old hunting rifle and was shot.
In a statement, U.S. forces said intelligence had led them to search the homes for a “Taliban facilitator,” though no arrests were made.