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Afghans Protest Deaths Of Four In NATO-Government Raid

GHAZNI, Afghanistan (Reuters) -- Scores of Afghans protested today over the deaths of four men in a nighttime raid by Afghan and NATO-led forces. Locals said the victims were civilians, but the force said the dead were Taliban insurgents.

Over 100 people took to the streets of a small bazaar in Qarabagh district in Ghazni Province, southwest of Kabul, to demonstrate, locals told Reuters by telephone.

Villagers who brought the bodies of four people to the hospital in the provincial capital of Ghazni city said three of the victims belonged to one family. Two were boys 11 and 15, villagers said.

NATO-led forces said the raid was directed by Afghan forces, designed to capture a "high-level Taliban commander known to direct attacks," and did not harm any civilians.

They said a teenager was killed in the assault, however.

"During the operation, a young man estimated to be 15-years-old displayed hostile intent and grabbed the weapon of a service member. He was shot and killed," the statement said.

The Afghan government has yet to comment about the incident.

Civilian casualties caused by foreign troops are one of the most emotive issues in Afghanistan's 8-year-old conflict.

They have sapped support for the presence of the troops and led to protests in various parts of the country in the past.