Afghans arrest alleged U.S. Special Operations translator on murder, torture charges

Correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled the first name of Zakaria Kandahari. This version has been corrected.

July 7, 2013

Afghanistan authorities have arrested a man who they say was a U.S. Special Operations translator who tortured and killed Afghans, accusations that prompted President Hamid Karzai to order the expulsion of U.S. forces from a province near Kabul, officials said Sunday.

Zakaria Kandahari was captured in a house in southern Kandahar during a raid by agents from the National Directorate of Security nearly six weeks ago and has been transferred to Kabul for interrogations, officials said. Officials did not say why they waited to announce Kandahari’s arrest.

The Afghan government issued an order for Kandahari’s arrest after local officials and residents alleged that he kidnapped villagers and executed detainees at a base used by U.S. Special Operations in Wardak province, where Afghan officials say he served as a translator for the forces.

The Kandahar governor’s office described Kandahari as holding Afghan-American citizenship.

Days of anti-American protests were held in the province at the time, leading to increased tension between Kabul and Washington. Earlier this year, the U.S.-backed NATO command here said past inquiries had found no evidence to support allegations of misconduct by U.S. Special Operations forces in Wardak. Afghan officials at the time said that Special Operations had told them its forces had no hand in the killings and abuses, and that Kandahari had fled.

“He had escaped from Wardak, where he worked as a translator for the Special Forces, and Karzai had issued his arrest order because of the reports of killings and torturing of some prisoners,” Javid Faisal, a spokesman for Kandahar’s governor, said Sunday.

Gen. Abdul Manan Farahi, head of the Defense Ministry’s intelligence department, confirmed Kandahari’s arrest. “I do not have further details on his arrest, except can confirm that he has been arrested on the accusations of some killing and persecuting the prisoners in Wardak,” he said.

Wardak residents and provincial officials said some weeks ago that near the Special Operations base they had found the bodies of some of the 19 villagers who had gone missing in Wardak, where Taliban-led insurgents are active.

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