- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 30, 2009

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan | President Hamid Karzai accused Afghan guards working for U.S. coalition forces of killing a provincial police chief and at least four other security officers during a gunbattle outside a government office Monday.

In a harshly worded statement that revealed the often testy relations between Mr. Karzai and U.S. officials, the Afghan leader demanded that coalition forces hand over the private security guards involved. But the governor of Kandahar later said 41 guards connected to the incident had been disarmed and arrested by Afghan authorities.

The U.S. military said it was not involved in the shooting, calling it an “Afghan-on-Afghan incident.” However, Mr. Karzai’s statement suggested that the security guards sought refuge at a U.S. coalition base after the killings, and he “demanded that coalition forces prevent such incidents, which weaken the government.”

A bomb blast in eastern Afghanistan on Monday, meanwhile, killed a soldier in the NATO-led force deployed here to counter a Taliban insurgency, the military said, according to Agence France-Presse.

The president’s accusations come as thousands of U.S. Marines and soldiers are deploying across southern Afghanistan, the Taliban’s stronghold and a region where Mr. Karzai is also seeking votes from his Pashtun tribesmen ahead of the Aug. 20 presidential election.

Gunfire broke out after Afghan security guards moved into the heavily protected office of the district attorney in Kandahar and demanded the release of a man accused of forging documents, said Hafizullah Khaliqyar, Kandahar’s district attorney.

The Afghan security guards threatened to release the suspect by force, so Mr. Khaliqyar called the provincial police chief, he said.

“When the police chief wanted to talk to these people, there was some argument, and the gunbattle started,” Mr. Khaliqyar said.

Among those killed were provincial police chief Matiullah Qati and the province’s criminal investigations director. Mr. Karzai said five guards were killed, though some officials put the death toll as high as 10.

A U.S. military spokesman, Chief Petty Officer Brian Naranjo, said no American military forces were present or involved in the incident.

“The incident was an Afghan-on-Afghan incident and did not involve U.S. or international personnel or equipment,” a U.S. military statement said.

The killing of Kandahar’s top police officer is a blow to security efforts in a province from which Taliban leader Mullah Omar once ruled the country.

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