Demonstrators hit the streets of Kabul

ITN News

by ITN News

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More than 400 demonstrators marched toward the presidential palace in Kabul on Sunday to protest against the alleged killing of 52 civilians by a NATO rocket strike in southern Afghanistan.

NATO has repeatedly disputed the allegations of civilian deaths.

German Army Brigadier General Josef Blotz, a Nato spokesman, told reporters on Sunday in Kabul that a joint assessment team has only confirmed that one to three civilians may have been killed in the attack in Helmand province's Sangin district.

Witnesses told the assessment team that six to eight people were killed in the July 23 incident, most of them insurgents, according to Blotz.

Yet the Afghans gathered in downtown Kabul said they were sure the international forces were to blame. Participants in the protest carried photos of children allegedly injured or killed in the strike and shouted "Death to America! Death to Nato!"

The demonstrators did not threaten violence and they were guarded by Afghan police who had shut down the road for the them to hold their march.

Civilian casualties caused by international troops are a major source of friction between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his international partners, even though the United Nations says the Taliban are responsible for most civilian deaths.

The United Nations says at least 2,412 civilians were killed in 2009 - the deadliest year since the world organisation began systematically collecting casualty data in 2007. The 2009 deaths represented a 14 per cent jump over the previous year, the UN said.