KABUL, Afghanistan — Hundreds of Afghans chanted anti-American slogans to protest the deaths of nine policemen who local officials said were killed Thursday in an anti-Taliban operation by U.S.-led coalition troops.
The coalition denied killing the policemen. A spokesman said four insurgents were killed and nine were detained in the mission in central Afghanistan.
The officers, including a district police chief, died in Ghazni province during the raid by U.S. ground forces and airstrikes, said a provincial official, Habeb-ul Rahman. Two civilians also died, he said.
"This morning around 3:30 a.m., coalition forces launched an operation north of Ghazni," said Abdullah Nashir, the spokesman for the province's governor. "Unfortunately we got reports that second district commander Kamyab along with eight other police were killed."
Police officials in Ghazni, who spoke on condition of anonymity since they were not authorized to talk to the media, said the officers appeared to have been killed by American troops, who mistook them for insurgents.
It was not clear whether the policemen were participating in the raid or went to the area after the attack began.
The U.S.-led coalition said its forces killed "several insurgents" and detained nine others during the operation, which targeted a Taliban commander associated with suicide bombings in Ghazni. The two sides exchanged fire and airstrikes were called in.
Coalition spokesman Maj. Chris Belcher said four policemen were wounded by insurgents and the coalition was looking into the reports of the police deaths.
However, a resident named Ismail, who like many Afghans goes by only one name, said police approached the area as the U.S.-led operation was under way and were attacked by American troops.
Hundreds of angry people protested the killings in Ghazni city and shouted anti-American slogans, Rahman said.
Footage shot by AP Television News shows a bullet-riddled police vehicle close to the area where American troops conducted the operation. The metal gates of compounds raided were damaged, and mud walls of nearby houses had bullet holes.
Faced with troop shortages, U.S. and NATO-led troops rely heavily on airstrikes in their fight against the Taliban and other militants. Such tactics have caused many civilian casualties, and at times created friction with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
U.S. and NATO officials accuse militants of using civilians as human shields.
Separately Thursday, a NATO soldier was killed and two others were wounded when an explosion struck their patrol in southern Afghanistan, an alliance statement said. It did not give their nationalities or the exact location of the blast.