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Afghans Say U.S. Erred, Seized Police

Military: Local officials seek information about detainees. Pentagon has defended the deadly raid on an ammunition dump.

January 30, 2002|From Associated Press

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — The U.S. military mistakenly seized a district police chief and other local leaders loyal to the new government in a deadly raid and has now promised to free them, Afghan authorities said Tuesday.

The arrests came last week in a raid by U.S. Special Forces soldiers that Afghan officials portrayed as a mission gone awry. At least 15 Afghans were killed and 27 taken prisoner in the incident north of Kandahar. Afghan authorities say the police were collecting weapons from local militiamen.

The Pentagon has insisted that the Special Forces troops attacked a legitimate military target in the raid last Wednesday on an ammunition dump, which U.S. intelligence analysts believed Al Qaeda or Taliban forces were using. One U.S. soldier was wounded in the ankle during the raid.

However, the spokesman for Kandahar Gov. Gul Agha Shirzai said those captured included the district police chief, his deputy and members of the district council--all loyal to the interim government led by Prime Minister Hamid Karzai.

Mohammed Yusuf Pushtoon, the spokesman, said the Kandahar administration has asked the Americans for clarification of the detainees' status and the reasons they are being held.

Pushtoon said the Americans have promised to begin releasing some of the detainees in the next few days. A spokesman for the U.S. military, Capt. Tony Rivers, declined to comment.

Local Afghans say that Taliban fighters were handing over weapons at the site and that some of the pro-government figures collecting the arms were killed in the U.S. raid.

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