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“Our initial reports show that the American thought he was acting in self-defense,” Mr. Jahangir said. Mr. Rahim was a private guard, not an Afghan soldier or policeman, Mr. Jahangir said.

U.S. forces were “aware of an incident in northern Afghanistan” and were investigating, said Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, a U.S. military spokesman. He declined to provide further details.