KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan police were accused of killing eight protesters at a demonstration on Wednesday as the U.S.-led coalition said it had opened an investigation into allegations of misconduct by NATO troops during an encounter with insurgents.
Both incidents occurred in southern Afghanistan where violence has escalated in recent weeks after a Taliban announcement launching the start of its spring offensive.
Villagers in the town of Maiwand said Afghan police opened fire on hundreds of demonstrators who were protesting raids that Afghan and NATO forces conducted in their village of Loye Karez two days earlier.
Accounts differed as to whether the eight killed were unarmed protesters or militants. Ten other people were wounded.
Kandahar Provincial Police Chief Gen. Abdul Raziq said Taliban insurgents had infiltrated the demonstration.
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Abdul Qayyum, a 45-year-old demonstrator, told The Associated Press by phone that "there were no Taliban among the protesters."
"The local people of Maiwand district are so upset and unhappy with the government and the foreigners because they are conducting night raids on the houses of local people," he said. "With no reason, they are entering local houses and doing whatever they want. We don't want all these things to keep happening to us."
In the past, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has bitterly criticized raids on village homes, particularly those carried out at night.
In a separate incident, the NATO-led force said Wednesday that it had launched an investigation into allegations of misconduct during April 28 encounter with insurgents in Zabul province.
The statement did not offer more details. Afghan officials were not immediately available for comment.
The statement quoted U.S. Gen. Joseph Dunford, the top commander of NATO and U.S. troops in Afghanistan, as saying that the alliance takes "all allegations of misconduct by our personnel very seriously." He pledged to "fully investigate the incident and keep the Afghan government informed."
Elsewhere in southern Afghanistan, three people were killed when their vehicle triggered an explosive device in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province. Another six people were injured.
Afghan security officials say improvised explosive devises, or IEDs, and suicide attacks present the greatest challenges for Afghan security forces in the battle against the Taliban.
The following soldiers were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas.
• Spc. Kevin Cardoza, 19, of Mercedes, Texas
• 1st Lt. Brandon J. Landrum, 26, of Lawton, Okla.
• Spc. Thomas P. Murach, 22, of Meridian, Idaho
• Staff Sgt. Francis G. Phillips IV, 28, of Meridian, N.Y.
• Spc. Brandon J. Prescott, 24, of Bend, Ore.
Source: Department of Defense