Conflict & Justice

NATO investigates claims its troops killed Karzai's relative


Afghan President Hamid Karzai gestures as he addresses a gathering of women to mark International Women's Day at Amani High School in Kabul on March 8, 2011.


Shah Marai

NATO says it is investigating claims its troops accidentally killed an elderly relative of Hamid Karzai, just days after the Afghan president lashed out at U.S. forces over civilian deaths.

Yar Muhammad Khan was shot dead at home during an overnight raid on a district near the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, the BBC reported.

It quoted Ahmad Wali Karzai, the president's brother and head of Kandahar's provincial council, saying the death was not intentional.

"There were operations taking place near his house. He was killed by mistake. He was not a target," he said.

The Guardian said the death may have been the result of a "major intelligence failure," as NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) initially claimed a man killed in the area was the father of a Taliban leader.

A statement released by ISAF said the man in question was seen carrying an AK-47 assault rifle and was assessed as "an immediate threat to the security force."

But a subsequent statement said the coalition was "now aware of conflicting reports about the identities of those involved."

The Guardian said Karzai had ordered an investigation. "Like always with any other civilian casualty, the president was saddened because he takes the loss of life extremely seriously," spokesman Waheed Omar told the paper.

The death comes less than two weeks after Karzai stepped up his criticism of NATO, amid growing public anger in Afghanistan over civilian deaths blamed on coalition forces.

Last week he angrily rejected an apology made by Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, over an incident in which nine boys were killed after an attack helicopter mistook them for Taliban insurgents.

Despite growing tensions between Western forces and the Afghan people, a recent United Nations report said that more than three-quarters of civilian deaths in the country are now caused by insurgents.

-- Barry Neild