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NATO troops kill Afghan cleric, officials say

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[January 28, 2010]  KABUL (AP) -- NATO troops in a convoy killed an Afghan cleric as he was driving Thursday in Kabul, officials and witnesses said, prompting a protest outside a U.S. military base.

PHardwareolice and witnesses said mosque preacher Mohammad Yunus, 36, was shot to death with his young son in the vehicle as he approached a main road from a side street.

NATO reported only that foreign forces had killed a civilian in an incident involving a convoy, saying the circumstances surrounding the death were being jointly investigated with Afghan officials.

The cleric was hit by four bullets and died on the way to the hospital, according to his son-in-law, Abdul Qadir, adding the family had taken the body to the province of Logar for burial. Yunus had two wives and 10 children, Abdul-Qadir said.

A shopkeeper who witnessed the shooting said the convoy was composed of American armored vehicles and was traveling on the main road in the direction of Jalalabad. A gunner in the first vehicle opened fire as Yunus began to pull onto the same road, the 25-year-old shopkeeper said, identifying himself only as Aymal.

Dozens of demonstrators gathered outside Camp Phoenix to protest the killing. They dispersed after police promised the Americans would discuss the death with local elders, according to Abdul Qadier and district police chief Col. Rohullah, who like many Afghans only uses one name.

A recent U.N. report showed that the number of civilians killed by NATO-led forces has dropped after U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, ordered measures curbing the use of airstrikes and other weapons to protect the population.

It said civilian deaths at the hands of the Taliban have increased.

"We deeply regret the tragic loss of life that occurred this morning, and extend our most sincere sympathies to the family," Navy Capt. Jane Campbell, a NATO spokeswoman, said in a statement.

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Nursing Homes

NATO also confirmed that at least a dozen suspected militants were killed Wednesday in fighting in northern Afghanistan.

Provincial police said Wednesday that 11 insurgents, including two senior commanders, were killed in a joint air and ground assault targeting a Taliban compound west of Pul-e-Khumri, the capital of Baghlan province.

Joint forces called in air support after coming under fire from a large number of insurgents armed with rocket-propelled grenades, NATO said in a statement issued Thursday. It said attack aircraft "bombed and strafed insurgents in a treeline," killing 12 to 20 of them.

[Associated Press; By AMIR SHAH]

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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