2006.03.30: March 30, 2006: Headlines: COS - Morocco: Journalism: COS - Afghanistan: Newsday: James Rupert writes: U.S. crash sparks fatal Afghan riots

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James Rupert writes: U.S. crash sparks fatal Afghan riots

James Rupert writes: U.S. crash sparks fatal Afghan riots

"The riot underscored Afghans' growing frustrations with a 4 1/2-year-old foreign occupation that has brought disappointingly little physical and economic security and that too often seems to them like an assault on their cultural traditions." Journalist James Rupert, head of Newsday's international bureau in Islamabad, Pakistan began his career abroad as a Peace Corps volunteer, teaching mechanics and welding in Morocco.

James Rupert writes: U.S. crash sparks fatal Afghan riots

U.S. crash sparks fatal Afghan riots
BY MOISES SAMAN AND JAMES RUPERT
Newsday Staff Correspondents

May 30, 2006

Mobs of young men burned foreign aid missions, police stations and any other symbol of power or wealth they could reach yesterday in Kabul, in the Afghanistan capital's worst rioting since the overthrow of the Taliban.

The violence erupted after a U.S. military cargo truck accidentally plowed into Afghan cars in a traffic jam, killing or injuring at least seven people.

A crowd began throwing rocks at an American military convoy accompanying the truck, and its troops fired warning shots, a U.S. military statement said. Riots broke out across the northern half of the city, killing at least eight Afghans and injuring more than 100, according to a health ministry spokesman quoted by Reuters news agency.

The riot underscored Afghans' growing frustrations with a 4 1/2-year-old foreign occupation that has brought disappointingly little physical and economic security and that too often seems to them like an assault on their cultural traditions.

It was the latest in a series of upheavals in the past year that political analysts say strengthen Afghans who seek removal of the U.S.-led foreign presence here. Riots erupted last May over alleged mistreatment of the Quran at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, and in February over Danish newspaper cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad.

The targets smashed and burned yesterday by bands of young men reflected rage at foreigners and anyone with wealth or power. Rioters burned a local office of Roshan, a mobile phone company and the Afghanistan headquarters of CARE International.

The riots "began as an emotional reaction," said Ahmed Nadery, a member of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, a government body. "This came very soon after people were upset by the bombing at Azizi," a village in southern Afghanistan where a U.S. air strike last week killed between 16 and 34 civilians, along with dozens of Taliban guerrillas.

"Later [in the day], I think the situation was hijacked for political purposes," suggested Nadery.

Various witnesses told of organized crowds of teenaged boys waving pictures of Ahmed Shah Massoud, a guerrilla commander killed in 2001 who is the hero of ethnic Tajiks from the Panjshir Valley in northeast Afghanistan. They voiced suspicion that Panjshiri political activists stoked the rioting to strike at President Hamid Karzai, who in the past 18 months has sidelined several top Panjshiri political figures. The country's highest ethnic Tajik official, parliament speaker Yunus Qanooni, appealed for calm.

Nadery said Islamic fundamentalist circles, too, are unhappy with Karzai because they feel under-represented in his latest appointments to the cabinet, the Supreme Court and the ranks of police chiefs nationwide.

Karzai denounced the rioters as "opportunists" and called on Afghans to "stand up against these agitators and not let them destroy our country again."

About 8 a.m., the U.S. convoy drove into northern Kabul, where the truck "apparently experienced a mechanical failure, striking as many as 12 civilian vehicles," the U.S. military statement said. After the stone-throwing began, a second U.S. convoy arrived to help the first one withdraw, and Afghan police also opened fire, witnesses told local journalists.

Moises Saman reported from Kabul, James Rupert from Islamabad, Pakistan.





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Story Source: Newsday

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Morocco; Journalism; COS - Afghanistan

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