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Afghan president: NATO killed ex-local official

Associated Press
Afghan border policemen check inside of a burnt out deminers' vehicle in Nangarhar, east of Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010. Taliban militants seized 16 Afghan demining experts in an ambush near the Pakistan border Wednesday and released all but seven of them hours after the attack, officials said. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

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President Hamid Karzai said Thursday that coalition forces killed an innocent former local government official in southern Afghanistan, but NATO insisted the man was shot after threatening the troops with a grenade.

It was the latest in a series of disputes between the U.S.-led force and Karzai's government, which has denounced night raids, saying they result in too many civilian deaths and disrupt the daily lives of the Afghan people.

A statement released by Karzai's office said the president called Helmand provincial Gov. Gulab Mangul after learning that Haji Ibrahim, the former chief of Gereshk district, had been killed during on Monday. The governor confirmed the incident and told Karzai that Ibrahim and the six relatives who were arrested during the nighttime operation were not insurgents, the statement from Karzai's office said.

"President Karzai ordered the governor to talk with NATO to clarify the situation and report back to the palace," the statement said.

NATO said it was reviewing the circumstances surrounding Ibrahim's death. The coalition said he was shot after he threatened to attack joint Afghan-NATO forces with a hand grenade.

"During the operation, six other males were taken into custody for further questioning, and one was subsequently released," NATO said. "Material found at the location links the men to insurgent activity in the area, and further examination of the materials is ongoing."

The Helmand governor and Karzai were briefed following the operation and further details will be provided when an investigation is complete, the coalition said.

NATO also reported that three coalition service members had been killed by bombs and insurgent fighting in the south and east, both areas that have seen heavy fighting since 30,000 American reinforcements arrived.

One service member was killed by insurgents Thursday in the south and another died in a roadside bomb blast in the east. A third service member was killed Wednesday in a roadside explosion in the south.

The military coalition did not release details of the deaths or disclose the nationalities of the service members killed.

They were the first three NATO troops killed so far this month; 55 died in November and more than 650 have been killed so far this year.

Elsewhere, Afghan and coalition forces detained numerous suspected insurgents during two security operations in the south and east.

The coalition also reported Thursday that a district Taliban leader was killed in Shahidi Hassas district of Uruzgan province Wednesday in southern Afghanistan. The leader, Mullah Hekmatullah, led a group of about 175 fighters and coordinated attacks against Afghan and coalition forces, the coalition said. NATO said he also ordered the killing and beating of citizens who were thought to be government supporters.

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