- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 28, 2009

KABUL, Afghanistan | Hundreds of people blocked roads and fought with police in southern Afghanistan on Friday over unconfirmed reports that Polish troops fired guns in a village mosque.

Both NATO forces and Polish officials said they had no reports of any such incident. Polish troops are deployed in the province, but there were no records of international troops in the immediate area, NATO added.

It is often difficult in Afghanistan’s turbulent south to separate actual incidents from Taliban propaganda, but a government delegation said the mosque door was damaged by bullets. and some protesters said they had witnessed the mosque raid on Thursday.

A protester reached by phone said he saw Polish forces fire their guns in the mosque in the village of Dhi Khodaidad, just south of the capital of Ghazni province.

Abdulrahman, who only gave one name, said he was in the mosque when the troops raided. He said the bullets hit a wall but did not injure anyone.

Robert Rochowicz, spokesman for Poland’s Defense Ministry, said he had “no information at all about any kind of incident concerning Polish troops in Afghanistan.”

A number of incidents in recent months in which NATO or U.S. strikes killed civilians have fueled anger against international troops in Afghanistan, threatening the effort to drive back the Taliban. President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly called on international forces to do more to respect the local population and prevent civilian deaths.

The Ghazni protest turned violent as the crowd of about 500 people threw rocks at police, and at least three demonstrators were wounded by gunfire before the melee calmed down, police Chief Mohammad Zaman said.

At least two bullets hit the door of the mosque, said Deputy Gov. Kazim Allayar, who led a delegation that visited the building Friday. He said government officials would meet with Polish forces Saturday to find out whether they were involved.

NATO forces said an initial query turned up no reports of troops in Dhi Khodaidad, but they were continuing to investigate.

Separately Friday, NATO forces said one of their troops was killed in a bomb attack in neighboring Zabul province. The service member died in an explosion Thursday, according to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force.

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