At least six killed in protests over food distribution in Afghanistan

KABUL (Reuters) – At least six were killed when protesters angry over what they see as unfair food aid distribution during the coronavirus pandemic clashed with police in Afghanistan’s western Ghor province on Saturday, according to officials.

Four civilians and two police officers died in the incident, according Tariq Arian, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior.

“A delegation will be sent from Kabul to investigate today’s incident in a comprehensive manner,” he said, adding that ten police officers and nine civilians were injured.

Gulzaman Nayeb, a lawmaker representing Ghor, said that seven people were killed and more than a dozen wounded during the protest – sparked by growing discontent at the distribution allegedly favouring people with political connections.

Police had opened fire after some among the around 300 protesters threw stones, started to fire guns and tried to enter the governor’s house, said Mohammad Arif Aber, a spokesman for the provincial governor of Ghor.

He put the toll at two dead and five wounded. He denied that aid was being unfairly distributed.

Among the dead was Ahmad Naveed Khan, a local volunteer radio presenter who was sitting in his nearby shop and was hit in the head by a bullet, according to Ahmad Quraishi, Executive Director at the Afghanistan Journalists Centre.

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) is looking into the “worrying reports of police firing on protesters,” its chairperson Shaharzad Akbar said on Twitter.

Rights group Amnesty International also called for an independent investigation into the use of police force.

The government has been distributing food aid around the country as the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic have led to many job losses and rising food prices.

Akbar told Reuters this week that the commission was being inundated with complaints from the public that food aid is being distributed unfairly.

“We hear repeated complaints from people that the ones who are receiving the limited aid that is there are not the ones that are most deserving, they are the ones who have connections to local authorities or local officials,” she said, adding it was not possible to verify the extent to which it was happening.

Afghanistan has reported 4,033 cases of the coronavirus and 115 deaths.

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