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Afghan official: Rioting after fatal truck crash was premeditated
Jeff Schogol
Stars and Stripes

ARLINGTON, Va. — The rioting that followed a U.S. military truck crash in Afghanistan was organized, not spontaneous, an Afghan government official said Thursday.

Several people were killed in riots following the Monday crash in the Afghan capital of Kabul.

Apparently, the rioters had maps of where to go on their rampage, said Said T. Jawad, Afghan ambassador to the United States.

Jawad declined to comment on who the Afghan government believes organized the riots.

“We have our suspicions. The investigation is being completed and more than 110 people are arrested, and we have gathered some important leads about who might be behind that,” he said.

In the wake of the riots, the Afghan government called for the prosecution of U.S. troops involved, but criminal jurisdiction of all U.S. troops rests with the U.S. military, said Lt. Col. Todd Vician, a Defense Department spokesman.

Vician said the Status of Forces Agreement between the two countries was struck on May 28, 2003. At the time the transitional government was ruling Afghanistan. Hamid Karzai was elected president in 2004 and parliament was elected in 2005.

“Of course, all U.S. military personnel are subjected to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and enforcing discipline is an inherent part of military command and essential to combat operations,” Vician said.

Jawad said there is no Afghan government initiative under way to expand its criminal jurisdiction to include U.S. troops.

He also said the Afghan parliament’s nonbinding resolution was meant to call for a complete investigation into the incident. Investigations by the U.S. military and Afghan authorities so far have shown no wrongdoing on the part of U.S. troops.

“Our investigation indicates at this point that it was a simple traffic accident, a failure of the brake on the steep hill on Kabul, and a mob and a group of instigators took advantage of that accident and caused a lot of damage and destruction to property of the Afghan government and Afghan people,” Jawad said.

The New York Times, on its Web site Wednesday, quoted the chief of highway police in Kabul, Gen. Amanullah Gozar, as saying U.S. soldiers fired into the crowd, killing four people. Gozar, who the Times reported was an eyewitness, said the soldiers were in the last vehicle in a U.S. army convoy involved in the crash.

U.S. military spokesman Col. Tom Collins would only say that the soldiers fired in self-defense.

“Our initial investigation … shows that fire came from the crowd, and our soldiers used their weapons to defend themselves,” he said. Asked if this meant that they fired into or over the crowd, Collins said, “Our investigation is still looking into this.”

Karzai on Thursday condemned the use of gunfire by U.S. troops to suppress Afghans.

“The coalition opened fire, and we strongly condemn that,” Karzai said in a national radio address.

Speaking in his native Pashto language, Karzai used wording that left open whether the U.S. troops had fired into a crowd that had gathered at the scene of Monday’s accident, or only over their heads.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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