Afghans hold anti-U.S. rally following abuse claims

Tue Feb 26, 2013 5:22pm EST
 

Maiden Shar, AFGHANISTAN (Reuters) - More than five hundred men marched through the capital of Afghanistan's restive Wardak province on Tuesday in an outburst of anger against U.S. special forces accused of overseeing torture and killings in the area.

Shouting "Death to America", "Death to Obama" and "Death to special forces", the protesters called for the immediate withdrawal of the American soldiers and threatened to join the Taliban if their demand was not met.

A spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced on Sunday that all U.S. special forces must leave Wardak province within two weeks following the accusations that Afghans working for them had tortured and killed innocent people.

Karzai's demand could further complicate talks between the United States and Afghanistan over the presence of American troops once most NATO forces leave the country by the end of 2014.

Reuters interviewed dozens of residents of Wardak and Afghan government officials who alleged that Afghan men working with a small unit of U.S. special forces had illegally detained, tortured and killed suspected insurgents.

A U.S. defense official in Washington said a review in recent months in cooperation with Afghanistan's Defense Ministry and National Directorate of Security (NDS) intelligence agency found no involvement of Western forces in any abuse.

The peaceful two-hour protest began on Tuesday at the offices of the Wardak provincial council shortly after it held a meeting.

"If the situation remains like this, this province will collapse very soon," said protester Haji Abdul Qadim. "People will join the insurgency very soon because of the abuses of these forces."

In another incident that could feed local hostility to the American forces in Wardak, a Swedish organization which runs health clinics across Afghanistan accused the U.S. military on Tuesday of occupying and damaging one of its facilities.   Continued...

 
Afghan villagers attend a protest against U.S. special forces accused of overseeing torture and killings in Wardak province February 26, 2013. REUTERS/Mirwais Harooni