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Afghan child shot dead in anti-U.S. protest
Updated: 2004-11-29 10:15

A little girl has been shot dead during protests by thousands of tribesmen in eastern Afghanistan against detentions by U.S.-led forces, officials say.

Up to 6,000 protesters blocked about five kms (three miles) of the main road link from the eastern city of Jalalabad to Pakistan to protest against the arrest of several locals, including a woman, on Friday night, police said.

Faizanulhaq, a spokesman for the provincial government, said there had been some shooting during the protest in Bati Kot district in which a child died and a protester was wounded, but security forces had not been involved.

"The child was not from among the protesters," he said. "It's not clear who fired the bullet that killed her, but it did not come drom the security forces."

The Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press quoted Bati Kot district chief Sayed Rehman as saying that the child, a young shepherd girl, was killed in an exchange by the protesters and guards of a Pakistani firm working to upgrade the highway.

The protesters had attacked the offices of the firm and broken some windows, he said.

The protesters were mainly ethnic Pashtuns from the Shinwari and Mohmand tribes. Provincial police chief Hazrat Ali said they dispersed after being told that three people detained by U.S.-led forces, including the woman, had been released.

Major Mark McCann, a spokesman for the U.S.-led force hunting Islamic militants in Afghanistan, said it had detained some people in an operation against suspected al Qaeda hideouts near Jalalabad on Friday, but several had been freed.

U.S. forces also raided suspected al Qaeda hideouts in Bati Kot a week ago. They said several Arabs were among 4 militants killed and others captured, but have not identified them.

U.S.-led forces have been in Afghanistan since 2001 pursuing remnants of the former Taliban regime as well as their Arab al Qaeda allies, including Osama bin Laden, blamed for the September 11 attacks on the United States.

Arab al Qaeda fighters are still thought to be operating with local support from sanctuaries in the tribal border areas with Pakistan, where U.S. officials believe Bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar may be hiding.

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