U.S. troops raided the home of a female member of the Afghan parliament and killed a neighbor who was one of her relatives, the MP said on Thursday, an incident that sparked angry protests in the east.
A spokesman for foreign forces in Afghanistan said Western and Afghan troops had raided a house in the area and shot dead an armed man but was not able to comment on whether the house belonged to a member of parliament.
Night-time raids by Western troops and civilian casualties are among the most incendiary issues in Afghanistan, and the targeting of a female parliamentarian would raise the political temperature at a time when NATO is preparing a large offensive.
Safia Sediqi, an outspoken member of parliament from eastern Nangarhar province, said scores of U.S. soldiers raided her village home shortly before midnight.
Inside the house, they broke furniture and tied up family members, including her brother, for hours, she said. Outside, they shot dead a neighbor, who was also a relative by marriage.
"I will raise my voice. I am a member of parliament, my residence must be protected," Sediqi told Reuters. "This man had five children. The Americans have created five more enemies."
She said she had phoned Afghan authorities from inside the house during the raid to try to have it stopped, but the U.S. troops had the compound surrounded and did not let Afghan forces interfere.
Master Sergeant Jeff Loftin, a spokesman for the U.S.-led NATO military force, said a team of Western and Afghan troops had carried out the raid because of intelligence reports of insurgent activity there. They shot dead an armed man who ignored commands through an interpreter to lower his weapon, he said.
The International Security Assistance Force said in a statement it and Afghan forces were reviewing the operation.
Civilian deaths at the hands of U.S. and other international forces are highly sensitive in Afghanistan. Public outrage over such deaths prompted the top commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal last year to tighten the rules on the use of air strikes and other weaponry if civilians are at risk.
Scores of angry residents brought the dead man's body to a main road on Thursday, chanting anti-American and anti-government slogans. They said they would not bury the body until they received a proper explanation of how he was killed.
The commander of U.S. and NATO forces, General Stanley McChrystal, has tried to place limits on night raids, a tactic he says is sometimes necessary to pursue insurgents but can also set back the overall strategy of winning public support.
Under McChrystal's guidance, night raids should be carried out only as a last resort and with the participation of Afghan forces. He has however refused repeated requests by President Hamid Karzai to ban night raids altogether.
Ghafoor Khan, provincial police spokesman, said the operation had not been coordinated with Afghan security forces.