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    Laghman civilian deaths spark protest

    KABUL (PAN): Protestors in eastern Laghman province said on Saturday civilians were also among 30 people killed in an ongoing coalition operation in the Alishang district.

    More than 250 Afghan army, police and coalition personnel conducted the air assault in the Alishang district on Friday after they came under small arms fire, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said.

    The joint assault force engaged several militants in the area. "More than 30 enemy fighters have been killed in the engagement. Initial reports indicate that there are no injuries or damages to any civilians in the area."

    However, more than 200 civilians took to the streets on Saturday afternoon, chanting slogans against NATO for killing several civilians in the inaccurate bombardment.

    Sharifullah, one of the protestors, claimed no militant had been killed in the operation and that all the victims were non-combatants.

    A resident of Alingar district, Rahmatullah, said most of those killed in the joint operation were civilians.

    On the other hand, Laghman Governor Muhammad Iqbal Azizi told Pajhwok Afghan News 31 Taliban guerrillas had killed in the sweep, which is still ongoing. He denied any casualties had been inflicted on civilians.

    His spokesman, Gul Rahman Hamdard, said the operation in Masmood Olya and Masmood Sofla areas of the district were still in progress.

    Provincial police chief, Col. Aziz Gharani, said the protestors threw stones at police. He added two protestors had been arrested.

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