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Afghanistan arrests former translator for U.S.

| Monday, July 8, 2013, 10:15 p.m.

MAIDAN SHAHR, Afghanistan — Afghanistan intelligence on Monday announced the arrest of an Afghan who translated for the Special Forces and was linked to the mysterious deaths of at least nine civilians in an affair that has further strained relations between the United States and President Hamid Karzai.

The Afghan National Directorate for Security said Zakaria Kandahari was picked up in the southern city of Kandahar for “various crimes.”

It did not elaborate, but the Defense Ministry has said Kandahari was wanted on charges of murder and torture in connection with the men, who disappeared last year. Their remains were discovered over the course of four weeks in May and June, buried in a rock-strewn field within walking distance of a special operations forces base.

What happened to the men is a mystery that has touched off violent protests and could complicate plans to leave special forces in Afghanistan after combat troops complete their withdrawal next year.

Villagers in Narkh district, in Wardak province, south of Kabul, alleged that dozens of Afghans were rounded up and arrested by U.S. special operations forces late last year. They say nine people were then beaten, tortured and killed. They blamed in particular the translator they know as Zakaria Kandahari, who they claim was either a member of U.S. special operations forces or worked for them, and they further allege that Americans were present at the beatings.

The Afghan intelligence agency said Kandahari “worked as a translator for the American Special Forces Unit.” It said that when he was arrested, he was carrying three pistols, two fake Afghan national identification cards and seven other false IDs.

The agency said he is from Kandahar, and identified his father as Abdul Hakim. U.S. officials said he was not an American citizen.

When the disappearances came to light, spokesmen for the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan acknowledged that Kandahari once worked for U.S. forces, but said he was not in their employ at the time of the disappearances.

They have said that when the allegations surfaced, a senior officer was sent to investigate and that no evidence of misconduct has turned up in connection with the detainees or deaths in Narkh district.

“We have publicly acknowledged arresting nine total people, five of whom were released relatively quickly, but I do not know if these nine were part of the group of bodies that have been found,” ISAF spokesman Col. Thomas Collins said in a recent email exchange with the AP.

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