Sangar Rahimi and Rod Nordland / The New York Times – 2013-06-05 00:05:29
KABUL, Afghanistan (June 4, 2013) — Soon after family members found what they believe are the bodies of the last three people still missing out of 17 Afghan men detained by an American Special Forces team in Wardak Province, another tragedy found them: they said one person was killed and another was critically wounded on Tuesday when Afghan Army troops opened fire on the family members at an unruly demonstration to protest the deaths of their relatives.
The three bodies were uncovered Tuesday lying facedown in a pit covered by large, flat stones roughly 800 yards from a base formerly used by the American Special Forces team, said Dr. Shukrullah Stoman, who was part of the search and is the brother of one of the victims.
In recent weeks, mourning families have descended on the perimeter of the base, digging up the rocky soil to search for the bodies of missing loved ones. Late last week, four bodies were found nearby.
The deaths, and accusations of torture after the 17 men were detained, have increased tensions between Afghan and American officials, who are in sharp disagreement about who is responsible.
Afghan officials and villagers say that the men were all last seen with the American commando team and that a video showed at least one man being tortured by a former interpreter for the team. American officials, however, say they have conducted three separate inquiries into the deaths and are confident that American forces played no role in any torture or killings. The results of those investigations have not been made public, and the military has been unwilling to publicly discuss the findings.
Since then, family members have searched desperately for the remains of the missing, only to discover 10 of the 17 close to the former American base, which is now used by the Afghan military. Relatives believe the bodies discovered on Tuesday morning were those of Atiqullah, 38; Mehrabuddin, 35; and Mohammed Mansor, 32, all from Maidan Shahr, the provincial capital. The men had been missing since December.
As with many of the other victims’ remains, the bodies were badly decomposed. Their identities had not yet been verified scientifically.
“We don’t want anything from the government or from the foreign forces,” said Dr. Stoman, who identified the victims by their clothing, boots and shawls. “We blame both for the murder of my brother. The Americans because they detained him and took him away from his shop in broad daylight, and the government for its failure to defend and protect its citizens’ rights.”
The final three bodies were meant to be taken to the forensic unit in Kabul for proper identification, but relatives said they had stopped in Maidan Shahr to protest the deaths and demand justice. Dr. Stoman said that during the protest, Afghan soldiers fired on the crowd.
Although provincial officials denied that had happened, officials at the hospital in Maidan Shahr confirmed it. According to Dr. Abdul Samad Hakimi, the medical director of the hospital, two civilians with gunshot wounds were taken there from the demonstration. One died, he said, and the other was in very critical condition.
Sangar Rahimi reported from Kabul, and Rod Nordland from London. Azam Ahmed contributed reporting from Kabul.
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