US troops open fire on Afghan civilians-witness

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BATI KOT, Afghanistan, Sep 27 (Reuters) US troops today opened fire on civilians near the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad after a failed suicide car bomb attack on their convoy, a Reuters witness said.

There was no immediate comment on the reported incident either from US-led coalition forces or from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

The witness said three suicide bombers in one vehicle attacked a convoy of US troops in the village of Bati Kot, 15 km east of Jalalabad, but none of the soldiers was hurt.

Two of the bombers were immediately killed in the blast. The third, dressed in a police uniform, survived only to be shot dead by troops, the witness said.

A fire brigade vehicle arriving at speed at the scene then suffered brake failure and rammed into the US vehicles. Troops inside then opened fire, wounding a number of bystanders.

''I saw everything,'' said Reuters correspondent Noor Mohammad Sherzai. ''I saw the suicide bomb attack ...

''I saw the fire brigade vehicle rushing to the area at top speed, somehow its brakes failed and hit one police vehicle and coalition vehicles, then the Americans started firing at the people and everyone lay flat on the ground and then fled the area.'' Sherzai said a number of people had been wounded in the attack, but he did not know how many. ''I ran away to save my own life.'' At least two people were taken away by ambulance, he later said.

US troops cordoned off the area.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the suicide attack.

An ISAF spokesman in Kabul said the force was aware of the attack but that there were no casualties reported.

Afghans staged angry protests in Jalalabad in March after US Marines killed at least 10 civilians there following a suicide bomb attack.

Elsewhere, two Danish soldiers were killed in an attack on a forward operating base near the town of Gereshk in the southern province of Helmand overnight, a British military spokesman said. Another Danish soldier was also wounded in the attack.

British troops launched a large operation north of Gereshk last week to clear Taliban rebels from the area. US troops said they had killed scores of Taliban insurgents in the last few days in operations in Helmand and neighbouring Uruzgan province.

Afghanistan's Interior Ministry today said that police had captured Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousuf. But a Reuters reporter received a message purportedly from Yousuf after the Interior Ministry statement was released.

REUTERS ARB PM1340

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