Military vehicle accident sparks Afghan riot
May 30, 2006
American and Afghan officials are calling for calm and issuing statements of regret after a fatal, multi-vehicle crash involving a U.S. military truck in Kabul sparked riots in the Afghan capital.
Afghanistan Health Ministry spokesman Abdullah Fahim told the Associated Press that at least eight people were killed and 107 injured in the accident and aftermath.
The incident began at 8 a.m. Monday, when a U.S. military convoy driving through Kabul was involved in a “serious multi-vehicle accident at a busy intersection just outside of downtown Kabul,” officials said. The truck apparently had a mechanical breakdown and hit as many as 12 civilian vehicles, killing at least one person and injuring several others, according to U.S. officials.
An Afghan police chief told reporters that as many as three people were killed and 16 injured in the crash. The police official, Sher Shah Usafi, also alleged that U.S. forces fired on a growing, angry crowd, killing another person and wounding two others.
U.S. officials said in a news release that “when the gathering crowd became hostile, the coalition vehicles attempted to move out of the area to reduce tensions. A second military convoy came to help the first convoy, and they departed the area taking the damaged vehicle with them.”
An investigation into the incident has begun, the statement read, and is examining “reports of gunfire at the scene. There are indications that at least one coalition military vehicle fired warning shots over the crowd.”
Afghan security officials also had arrived at the scene by that time, officials said.
“We will determine the facts regarding the incident and cooperate fully with Afghan authorities. In accordance with appropriate polices, compensation will be paid to those who are entitled. At this time, we are still determining the facts of what happened, but we will provide updates as soon as that information is available,” Army Col. Thomas Collins said in a statement released by the U.S. command Monday afternoon.
“This was a tragic incident and we deeply regret any deaths or injuries resulting from this incident.”
As news of the incident spread, a crowd estimated in the hundreds marched on the presidential palace of Hamid Karzai, shouting chants of “Death to Karzai!” and “Death to America!” news services reported.
Rioters broke into shops and looted stores, according to the Associated Press. Afghan troops and NATO tanks were dispatched to the city center, and rioters clashed with police, officials said.
The sound of gunfire also was heard near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, where staffers were moved to a secure location within the fortified compound, embassy spokesman Chris Harris told the AP.
AP television footage shot at the scene of the crash showed crowds of young men throwing stones at U.S. military vehicles, which sped away from the area.
“A center-mounted machine gun on one of the Humvees was seen firing into the air over the crowd as the vehicle sped away,” the AP reported.
The AP reported that the Afghan Interior Ministry responded to the violence by imposing a nighttime curfew Monday in Kabul.
Yousuf Stanezai, a ministry spokesman, said all Kabul residents were to stay off the streets between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. local time, AP said.