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Afghans say U.S. captured loyal officials

BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Published January 30, 2002

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) Afghan authorities said yesterday the U.S. military mistakenly seized a district police chief and other local leaders loyal to the new government and has now promised to free them.

Afghan officials portray last week"s raid by U.S. special forces as a mission gone awry in which at least 15 Afghans were killed and 27 taken prisoner. They say the police were collecting weapons from local militiamen.

The Pentagon insists that special forces attacked a legitimate military target in the Jan. 23 raid on an ammunition dump that U.S. intelligence analysts believed al-Qaida or Taliban forces were using. One American soldier was wounded in the ankle in the raid north of Kandahar.

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

Spokesman Yusuf Pashtun said the Kandahar administration has asked the Americans for clarification of the detainees" status and the reasons they are being held.

Pashtun said the Americans promised they would begin releasing some of the detainees within the next few days. A spokesman for the U.S. military at Kandahar airport, Capt. Tony Rivers, declined comment.

At the U.S. military"s Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Fla., spokesman Gunnery Sgt. Charles Portman said "we have no additional information" beyond what the Pentagon has said in recent days.

Local Afghans say 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.

The raid occurred in Uruzgan province, where Karzai organized resistance to the Taliban before the Islamic militia collapsed last year following intense American bombing and attacks by the U.S.-backed northern alliance.

After meeting Monday with President Bush in Washington, Karzai told The Associated Press that he has sent a delegation to investigate last week"s raid.

U.S. officials acknowledge the difficulties of obtaining reliable intelligence in Afghanistan, where local warlords with a tradition of shifting loyalties still wield power more than a month after Karzai"s interim government was installed in the capital, Kabul.

Also yesterday, Pakistan denied a report by CBS News that Osama bin Laden received kidney dialysis in a Pakistani military hospital the night before the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States. Bin Laden is the chief suspect in the attacks.


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