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British troops under fire in Kabul

British troops
A British soldier jokes with a group of Afghan schoolchildren in Kabul Afghanistan, where British-led peacekeepers are responsible for security  

KABUL, Afghanistan -- British troops have come under fire in Afghanistan for the second time in less than a week.

A patrol of British paratroopers was shot at in the Afghan capital and returned fire, a spokesman for the British-led multinational force in Kabul said on Thursday. There were no casualties.

Jonathan Turner, spokesman for the 17-nation International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), said a patrol from the 2nd battalion, the parachute regiment, came under fire in western Kabul around 8.30 pm (1600 GMT) on Wednesday as they were getting out of their vehicles.

"They returned fire with the aid of the Afghan police. There were no casualties," he said, adding the firefight was brief.

"Now we have a team sweeping the area looking for evidence from the firing point," Turner said, adding that nobody had been arrested in connection with the incident.

On Saturday, British forces said an observation post in western Kabul had come under fire from an unidentified source and paratroopers returned fire, killing a young man and

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wounding four others, including a pregnant woman.

But Afghan police later said no shots were fired at the post and British troops had opened fire on an innocent family taking a pregnant woman to hospital.

Shooting 'unprovoked'

The latest shooting incident underscores the poor security in Afghanistan and the huge challenge facing interim leader Hamid Karzai as he tries to bring peace to a country devastated by more than 20 years of war.

ISAF, a force of around 4,000 troops, is deployed under a six-month U.N. mandate to help maintain security in the capital during the term of the interim administration.

Two of the paratroopers involved in Saturday's incident have been sent home. Turner said ISAF was continuing an investigation.

Afghan witnesses say the fatal shooting was unprovoked.

"We are aware of what the Afghan police said and that's fair enough," he said. "But our investigation will take several weeks."

Nasser Yaqobi, the uncle of the dead Afghan man Hamayoon Yaqobi, told Reuters on Wednesday the foreign force should leave Afghanistan. Asia
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"We feel very, very angry, and it is not just our family, it is everyone," he said.

But Turner said the foreign patrols were not encountering hostility from the Kabul public.

"People are still coming up to them and chatting to them. The reaction is still friendly in the main," he said.

Karzai has asked the international community for the force to be extended to other parts of the country while his administration struggles to build a national army and police force.




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