Gunfire kills 6 at Afghan protest calling for economic aid

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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A shootout erupted on Saturday at a protest in western Afghanistan by residents demanding economic assistance, leading to the deaths of at least six people, including a local reporter and two police officers, officials said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Tareq Arian said the protesters had gathered outside the governor's office in Feroz Koh, the capital of the western Ghor province. They were demanding relief after weeks of restrictions aimed at containing the coronavirus pandemic.

He said some people at the protest opened fire at police, igniting a gun battle that killed the six people and wounded another 19, including nine police.

The ministry has launched an investigation and plans to send a delegation to the province.

Afghanistan was already mired in poverty before the onset of the pandemic, which has infected nearly 3,800 people in the country and killed at least 109. Many Afghans rely on day labor, which has dried up because of the closure of nonessential businesses.