Rioters took the streets, burning cars, looting shops and ransacking buildings, after U.S. troops and Afghan police reportedly opened fire to clear a crowd gathered at the scene of the accident, according to the Associated Press.
Reports from the scene differed over whether troops fired directly into the crowd injuring protesters or over the crowd.
Kabul police chief Sher Shah Usafi said U.S. troops fired into the crowd killing at least one person, but an AP Television News video showed a U.S. machine gun atop a Humvee firing into the air, the AP reported.
Coalition spokesman Col. Thomas Collins backed up reports that troops fired into the air to quell a crowd that had gathered after a military vehicle crashed into at least 12 civilian vehicles at a busy intersection. At least one person was killed in the accident and six injured, according to the coalition. Afghan police said three people died and 16 were injured.
“This is a tragic incident and we deeply regret any deaths or injuries resulting from this incident,” Collins said. “We will determine the facts regarding the incident and cooperate fully with Afghan authorities.”
Afghans have often complained about the aggressive driving tactics of U.S. soldiers, who they say ignore traffic rules and pass through busy areas at high speeds, the AP reported. The military claims the practice is necessary to protect troops.
“Today’s demonstration is because Americans killed innocent people,” protester Galum Ghaus told the AP. “We will not stop until foreigners leave the city. We are looking for foreigners to kill.”
AP News video showed hundreds of young men throwing rocks at U.S. military vehicles as they sped away from the scene of the accident. Rioters also targeted areas popular with foreigners.
The rioting spread throughout the city including to the American embassy where gunshots were heard, according to the AP. Employees were moved to a safe location within the building and no casualties were reported.
In a national address, Afghan President Hamid Karzai appealed for calm and admonished the rioters.
“We will recognize as the enemy of Afghanistan these people who do these things,” he said. “…You should stand up against these agitators and not let them destroy our country again.”
Monday’s riots were the worst in the Afghan capital since the fall of the Taliban regime.