US troops fire on Afghan bus, kill 5

Attack on civilians angers Kandahar leaders; military says driver ignored warning

US troops fire on Afghan bus, kill 5

The attack infuriated Kandahar leaders and could harm public opinion before perhaps the most important offensive of the war, a campaign that is intended to take control of the Kandahar region from the Taliban this summer.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered around a bus station on the western outskirts of Kandahar, shouting anti-American chants and blocking the road for an hour, according to people in the area.

The American military confirmed the shooting, but there were disputes over details, including whether the troops who fired on the bus had first shot flares and warned the driver to stay back.

One of the bus passengers and a man who identified himself as the driver said that an American convoy about 70 yards ahead of the bus opened fire as the bus began to pull to the side of the road to allow another military convoy travelling behind to pass.
The two convoys and the bus were on the main highway in Sanzari, about 24 km west of Kandahar city. All of the windows on one side of the bus were shot out. Troops opened fire on the bus just after daybreak as it was taking dozens of passengers to Nimroz Province, said Zalmy Ayoubi, a spokesman for the Kandahar provincial governor. Ayoubi said five civilians had been killed, including one woman.

An American military spokeswoman confirmed that a convoy travelling west, in front of the bus, had opened fire, but said the second convoy was travelling eastbound toward the bus. She also said that immediately before the shooting the troops fired three flares toward the bus to warn the driver he was following too closely, and that one soldier raised his fist in the air as another warning. She also said the driver of the bus was killed. However, the man who identified himself as the driver said the bus did not violate any signal from the troops.

“It is a huge bus full of passengers, and if they think we were a suicide bomber, we are sad that the Americans have killed innocent people,” he said. The New York Times

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