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US Seeks to Ease Afghan Anger Over Local Woman's Detention

U.S. diplomats and military officials in Afghanistan are seeking to ease tensions after a violent protest Sunday over the detention of a local woman. A young girl was killed during fighting between the protesters and security forces in the northeast province of Nangarhar.

U.S. officials say the woman was detained Friday in a raid against suspected members of the al-Qaida terrorist network and was released less than 24 hours later.

Major Mark McCann, spokesman for the U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, says the woman was only wanted for questioning to determine the whereabouts of her husband, an alleged al-Qaida bomb-maker.

"We detained her because we believed that she had information, and once we realized that she did not, she was released very quickly," Major McCann says.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul says female soldiers guarded the woman during her detention, in apparent concern for cultural sensibilities.

The incident sparked a large protest along the road linking the eastern city of Jalalabad and the Pakistani border, with the demonstrators calling the detention unfair and an affront to Afghan culture.

Afghan security forces guarding a nearby road construction project were confronted by the demonstrators and reportedly opened fire on them, killing a local girl.

But a security force commander says the protesters also shot at his troops and may have been responsible for the girl's death.

Meanwhile anti-government insurgents attacked an Afghan relief organization in the southwest province of Nimruz. The attack, blamed on armed remnants of the country's former hard line Islamic Taleban regime, killed three people working at the aid group's rural compound.

Taleban fighters have repeatedly staged attacks against any groups they believe connected with the new Afghan government or the U.S. forces helping provide security across the country.

Major McCann says U.S. troops continue to see the Taleban as a legitimate danger to the newly elected Afghan president and his administration.

"The bottom line is: they are out there, they are a viable threat, and we will continue to operate as such," Major McCann says.

But he also disputes news reports that Taleban attacks have increased in number since the country's October 9th presidential election.