Clerics arrest sparks Afghan protest

KABUL, Afghanistan  — Hundreds gathered in a mosque in northern Afghanistan on Sunday, demanding NATO forces release an influential cleric arrested in a raid that touched a raw nerve among Afghans who said they were shut out of the operation.
Opening another potential trouble spot for the coalition, three civilians, including a child, were killed Saturday in the crossfire as militants battled NATO forces, according to officials in the southern province of Helmand, a Taliban stronghold.
Provincial authorities said hundreds gathered in the main mosque in the city of Kunduz to protest the arrest of Mullah Nurallah, the apparent target of the raid early Sunday.
But irate Afghan authorities denied that local forces were involved.
"It was carried out by US Special Forces, and if they had any Afghan special forces with them, then we're not aware of it," said Muhbob Sayedi, the spokesman for the Kunduz governor.
"Instead of conducting early morning or late night operations targeting a house inside the city, the Americans could coordinate with Afghan police, and the Afghan police could arrest these people very easily," he said.
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