KABUL, Afghanistan — Anger over a nighttime NATO raid flared into violence in northern Afghanistan on Wednesday as an estimated 1,500 people clashed with police and tried to storm a German military base in a protest that left 12 dead.
The riot suggests more trouble ahead for NATO as upcoming troop drawdowns are likely to make the alliance increasingly reliant on quick-strike raids on insurgent hideouts. Such raids often produce results — most famously in the May 2 killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan — but deeply offend Afghans when they go wrong.
Demonstrators swarmed the road leading into the northern city of Taloqan early Wednesday, running through a cloud of dust as they pumped their fists and shouted insults at Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the United States.
"Death to Karzai! Death to America!" they yelled. The crowd carried aloft the bodies of four people — two men and two women — killed overnight in a NATO raid on the outskirts of the city.
The protesters claimed that all four were civilians gunned down in their home in the middle of the night by an international strike force. NATO said the dead were insurgents and that all four — including the women — had tried to fire weapons at a NATO-Afghan team as they searched the house for an insurgent arms trafficker.
Night raids targeting insurgents regularly stir up controversy. Some Afghans argue that the raids, even if effective, are an affront to a culture that highly values the sanctity of the home.
Residents often charge that international forces go after the wrong people or mistreat civilians as they search compounds. The accusations have persisted despite NATO's success in reducing civilian casualties and its agreement to conduct night raids alongside Afghan forces.
Distinguishing militants from civilians can be difficult in many areas. Entire villages are thought to be allied with the Taliban or other insurgent groups.
NATO said Tuesday's raid targeted a militant working with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan — an insurgent group allied with the Taliban in northern Afghanistan. The militant was involved in arms trafficking and building explosives, NATO said. The alliance did not say if he was killed or captured.