Thousands of Afghans, claiming NATO again killed civilians, take to the streets. Jean MacKenzie

Once again, an operation by international forces has sparked violent protests, this time in the northern province of Takhar. At least 12 people are now dead and more than 65 injured after a crowd angry at the deaths of civilians turned into a mob. It has not yet been confirmed who fired the shots that killed the protesters: the police attempting to restore order or armed agitators within the crowd itself.

On May 17, NATO staged a night raid on what it said was the home of a “facilitator” for the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), an insurgent group that has been making the headlines more and more often here of late.

Two men and two women were killed; this much is not in dispute. But NATO insists that the women were also insurgents, that they were armed, and attempting to attack the international troops during the raid.

“A woman wearing a chest rack and armed with an AK-47 rifle attempted to engage the force,” according to a statement released by the media office of the International Joint Command (IJC). “The security force gave numerous verbal warnings, but when the armed female pointed her weapon at them, she was subsequently killed.”

Another woman, allegedly armed with a pistol, then ran out of the compound, according to the IJC. She “displayed hostile intent by pointing her pistol at the security force. The security force engaged the female resulting in her death.”

Two males were also killed during the operation. But, the IJC insisted, “throughout the entire operation the security force was careful to ensure the safety of all civilians.”

This explanation apparently did not wash with the residents of Taloqan district, in which the operation took place.

They poured onto the streets, numbering more than 2,000, according to local reports. Wed, 18 May 2011 10:53 -0400

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