- The Washington Times - Monday, March 25, 2002

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) The governor of an eastern Afghan province demanded that U.S. Special Forces hand over several Afghan men who were accused of fleeing into an American compound yesterday after trying to kill the region's security chief.
Afghan authorities said the assailants, who killed a bodyguard and wounded two others, were believed to have been allies of the United States and to have taken refuge in the Americans' fortified airport compound at Khost. There was no confirmation from U.S. forces.
The security chief of Khost province, Sur Gul, escaped injury in the attack, the latest in a series of violent incidents in the area involving rival Afghan groups, according to Hazratuddin, the intelligence chief of Khost.
Hazratuddin, who uses only one name, said the assailants opened fire on Mr. Gul because the security chief had tried to disarm them a day earlier in the Khost public market.
"We will talk again today with the Americans, and I am sure they will hand them over," Khost Gov. Mohammed Ibrahim said by telephone. "I was busy today with the funeral, but I don't think they will refuse."
Khost, located in eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistani border, is a volatile city, bristling with men with guns and carved into areas controlled by warlords. Most of the city is under the control of U.S.-backed warlord Bacha Khan Zardran, but within Mr. Zardran's group there are rival factions.
Many Afghans in Khost blame the rising tension here on the United States for having recruited warlords as allies in the fight against the Taliban and al Qaeda. The warlords are paid for their services something that has triggered clashes among Afghan groups eager to win support and patronage from the Americans.
Hazratuddin said the gunmen who fired at Mr. Gul were loyal to the nephew of Mr. Zardran, whose men are among those being trained by the U.S. Special Forces. Mr. Gul also works with the Special Forces.
Although use of warlords has increased tensions among Afghan groups, U.S. officials say they believe it has been instrumental in delivering repeated blows to al Qaeda during the 5-month-old military conflict.
Mr. Zardran, for example, led troops in the recently concluded Operation Anaconda, which targeted al Qaeda and Taliban holdouts in Paktia province, which borders Khost.


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