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Afghan security forces implicated in killing of U.N. worker

By Colum Lynch
Friday, April 23, 2010; A10

UNITED NATIONS -- A U.N. security officer from Miami was most likely shot to death outside a U.N. guesthouse in Kabul in October by Afghan security forces who mistook him for a Taliban insurgent, according to U.N. officials briefed on a draft report of an investigation into the case.

The revelation comes as a U.N. board of inquiry is finalizing a probe into the deaths of Louis Maxwell and four other U.N. employees, who were killed during an Oct. 28 attack on their residence in the Afghan capital. The deaths initially were blamed on the Taliban, which had asserted responsibility for the pre-dawn raid on the residence, which housed about 20 U.N. election officials, as part of a bid to disrupt a planned presidential runoff.

The election was canceled after President Hamid Karzai's rival, Abdullah Abdullah, withdrew from the race, saying he did not think the election would be free and fair.

The assault was the worst act of violence to date against the U.N. mission in Afghanistan. But U.N. investigators later found evidence -- including witness testimony and an amateur video shot at the scene -- indicating that Maxwell, 27, was killed by government forces who had come to the U.N. workers' defense. The FBI has also launched an investigation into Maxwell's killing.

The inquiry board, headed by Andrew Hughes, a former Australian federal police official, is also examining whether Afghan forces or Taliban militants were responsible for killing three other U.N. staff members who died of gunshot wounds inside the compound. A fifth U.N. official burned to death after the attackers set fire to the building.

The board finished its report Thursday, according to the chief U.N. spokesman, Martin Nesirky. The findings will be presented to Afghan authorities. It remains unclear whether they will launch a criminal probe in the case.

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