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U.S. military: Driver tried to avoid pedestrians

At least eight killed, 109 injured in riot following crash in Kabul
Demonstrators throw stones at a coalition military vehicle in Kabul.



United States

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- The driver of a U.S. military truck intentionally struck unoccupied vehicles in a Kabul street Monday in an attempt to avoid pedestrians after the truck's brakes failed, the U.S. military said its initial investigation shows.

The truck crashed Monday into as many as 12 civilian vehicles and a group of pedestrians, the U.S. military said. At least one person was killed in the crash, sparking anti-U.S. riots through the Afghan capital.

The Afghan Health Ministry said at least eight people died and 109 were wounded in the unrest.

Coalition spokesman Col. Tom Collins, who on Tuesday released the initial results at a briefing in Kabul, said the driver, who was not identified, was "very experienced in the operation of this type of vehicle, a heavy cargo truck." (Watch Kabul, the day after -- 2:56)

"(He) applied the primary and emergency brakes and took evasive action to avoid hitting pedestrians, to include hitting several unoccupied parked vehicles in an effort to slow or stop the truck," Collins said.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai's office said five people were killed in Monday's vehicle crash. The U.S. military, in a statement issued earlier, said at least one person was killed in the crash and six were injured, two of them critically.

Kabul appeared to be largely quiet Tuesday after an overnight curfew was lifted.

CNN's Henry Schuster said NATO and Afghan troops were on the streets of Kabul on Tuesday, but U.S. troops were keeping a low profile and remained on base. There were no reports of gunfire in the capital.

Monday's rioting resulted in widespread looting throughout the city as schools, banks and hospitals were ravaged.

A shopkeeper in the popular Chicken Street shopping district said businesses remained closed Tuesday, but it was hoped that they would reopen at midweek.

As the rioting spread Monday, the U.S. military headquarters was locked down, and personnel were told to put on full protective gear. Afghan security forces fanned out to restore order but were unable to do so.

Video from one riot site after the crash showed a U.S. military vehicle firing in the direction of a crowd of Afghans. Military officials, after seeing the video, said an investigation was under way.

"U.S. soldiers at the scene immediately provided medical assistance to the injured. The injured were taken to local hospitals for treatment. Afghan national security forces also reported to the accident scene," said U.S. Army Col. Tom Collins, a coalition military spokesman in Afghanistan.

An angry crowd gathered around the wreck scene and became hostile, Collins said in a written statement.

"This was a tragic incident and we deeply regret any deaths or injuries resulting from this incident. Although this incident is very regrettable, the coalition remains committed to working together with the Afghan people to build a better future."

He added, "In accordance with appropriate policies, compensation will be paid to those who are entitled."

Afghan officials said it was the worst day of rioting in Kabul since the fall of the Taliban regime.

The office compound of the aid group CARE International was set on fire. Charred computer equipment and papers could be seen on the ground.

Throughout Kabul, firefighters were deployed to numerous buildings to control the blazes.

Dozens of protesters outside the U.S. Embassy on Monday screamed "Death to Americans!"

Embassy spokesman Chris Harris said many embassy personnel were sent to bunkers during the rioting, and were "in secure locations" for about 90 minutes.

Personnel have been instructed not to leave the U.S. compound Tuesday, he said.

Protesters outside the embassy, and elsewhere in the capital, yelled "Death to Karzai," accusing the president of being a puppet of the United States.

A statement from Karzai's office called on Afghans to "remain calm and practice restraint."

Although there frequently have been attacks on U.S. military personnel in parts of Afghanistan, such widespread anti-U.S. protests have been unheard of in Kabul since the U.S.-led war ousted the Taliban regime in late 2001.

CNN's Barbara Starr and Henry Schuster in Kabul contributed to this report.

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