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    Killing of children sparks anti-US protest

    QALAT (PAN): Hundreds of residents on Tuesday staged an angry protest against NATO-led forces in the southern province of Zabul, blocking the busy Kabul-Kandahar highway, officials said.

    Three children were killed and another three wounded during a clash between Taliban and foreign troops on Monday evening, when the fighters attacked a gathering of tribal elders, local policemen and foreign forces in the Shor Bazaar area of Shah Joy district.

    One militant and three children were killed, and as many others wounded in the clash, the governor’s office confirmed, saying the minors were taken to a health facility of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

    However, the governor’s house did not explain whether the children were killed by the rebels or security personnel. A delegation including members of provincial council and peace panel was sent to the district for investigation.

    Local residents and Taliban accused foreign soldiers of killing the children. Foreign forces opened fire on the children after the attack, killing six and injuring five others, aged between 7 and 12 years, said resident Mohammadullah.

    Resident Syed Mohammad told Pajhwok Afghan News thousands of people wanted to stage a protest in the district bazaar, but security personnel did not allow them. Later on, they closed the Kabul-Kandahar highway.

    A delegation of provincial council, peace council and security personnel representatives arrived at the scene around noon but it failed to convince the demonstrators to halt their protest, he added.

    A passenger, Rahat, said thousands of travellers had been stranded since the protest erupted at 9am and the road was blocked an hour later.

    Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi claimed the rebels had killed five Afghan and international soldiers. After the gunbattle, foreign troops opened fire on children -- killing four of them and wounding three others, he alleged.

    Meanwhile, the NATO-led force confirmed the civilian deaths. In a brief statement, the 50-nation force said it was probing the incident.