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Officials Deny Report of Firing on Afghan Civilians

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 12, 2010 – International Security Assistance Force Joint Command officials have denied reports from a Chinese wire service that claim forces opened fire on civilians during a protest in the Garmsir district of Afghanistan’s Helmand province today.

During the protest, officials said in a statement, an insurgent shot an Afghan official who was on a military base. International troops shot and killed the sniper. There were no other injuries or shots fired, the statement said.

Protestors had gathered over an allegation of the desecration of the Quran in a Jan. 10 operation against the Taliban. ISAF Joint Command officials denied the allegation. During the weekend operation, no shots were fired, no property was damaged and no one was detained, and the combined Afghan and international force protected the dignity of all innocent civilians during the operation, officials said.

"While denying these allegations, we take them very seriously and support a combined investigation with local Afghan authorities," said Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Michael Regner, the joint command’s deputy chief of staff for operations. "[International Security Assistance Force] is an international force that includes Muslim soldiers, and we deplore such an action under any circumstances.

"As partners with the Afghan people, we will thoroughly investigate allegations to determine the facts," Regner continued. "[The command] remains committed to our Afghan partners, and we will continue our efforts in support of a free and prosperous Afghanistan."

ISAF task force leaders in Garmsir have been invited to participate in a meeting tomorrow with the district governor and chief of police.

(Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command news releases.)

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