KABUL, Afghanistan - Furious anti-American demonstrators poured into the streets of a northern city Wednesday, shouting out objections to an overnight U.S.-led military raid that killed four people, including two women.
Clashes with security forces trying to quell the demonstration left 12 people dead, provincial officials said.
President Hamid Karzai issued a strongly worded statement condemning the raid on the outskirts of Taloqan, the capital of Taher province, and dismissing NATO's contention that the four killed were all armed insurgents.
The raid and its explosive aftermath pointed up the striking degree of discord between NATO and ordinary Afghans over nighttime operations aimed at capturing or killing insurgent figures.
Many Afghans are skeptical of Western assertions that the targets are carefully vetted, and believe in any case that such home invasions carry too great a risk of harming or killing innocent people in the confusion of night.
They fear that U.S. forces, flush with success over the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani garrison city, will rely more frequently on the tactic of swooping down in darkness on residential compounds.
The raid marked the third instance this month of a nighttime attack that NATO was forced either to apologize for or pledge to investigate.
A spokesman for the coalition said the circumstances of the strike in Taloqan were being examined, but the Western military stood by its assertion that those killed were combatants.
Within hours of the deaths, a crowd estimated by police at 1,500 poured into the streets, clashing with police and trying to overrun a NATO outpost manned by German troops. Besides those killed, about 50 people were hurt, provincial officials said.
In what has become a pattern in such incidents, local officials said they were unaware of the planned raid, while NATO said the governor's office was told ahead of time of the coalition's intentions.
NATO said in a statement that the two women killed were brandishing weapons - an assertion that many protesters said they flatly disbelieved.
Although women are occasionally recruited as suicide bombers because of their ability to approach sensitive military and government buildings clad in all-covering burqas, there are very few documented instances of adult females - normally kept secluded in conservative tribal areas - actively fighting alongside male insurgents.
Western military officials said the intended target of the raid was a figure in the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, an insurgent group that has been making inroads in the once-quiet north.
Karzai demanded "clarification" from NATO's International Security Assistance Force. He also noted that he had called repeatedly on NATO to refrain from nighttime strikes, and insisted that any raids on residential compounds should involve only Afghan forces.
Even so, many of the protesters vented anger at their president as well as the Western military, shouting anti-Karzai slogans along with anti-American ones.