A former Afghan interpreter arrested under suspicion of torturing and murdering of Afghan civilians has denied responsibility of any deaths and said he was acting in accordance with the orders of U.S. Special Forces.
Zakeria Kandahari was detained about six weeks ago by Afghan police and accused of beating and killing residents of Wardak province, a region near Kabul. According to documents obtained by Reuters, Afghan investigators have a cell phone video of Kandahari beating local resident Sayid Mohammed, who was last seen alive being taken into U.S. custody before his body was found, mutilated and footless, near the Nerk Special Forces base in May. At least nine bodies have been recently found in the region.
The obtained documents summarize Kandahari’s interrogation, in which he identified three U.S. Special Forces soldiers. Kandahari said that the three soldiers, which he named as “Dave, chief of the operations, Hagen, and Chris,” were all fluent in Dari and Pashto and were responsible for the man’s death, though Kandahari did admit to beating Mohammed.
“I also kicked him several times while I was taking him to the base,” Kandahari stated in his interrogation. “I handed him over to Mr. Dave and Mr. Hagen, but later I saw his body in a black body bag.”
“I was simply a low-rank translator and did not have authorization to roam around inside the base, or (go) to interrogation sections,” he continued.
Residents of Wardak have long complained of mistreatment by U.S. Special Forces. In February, President Hamid Karzai ordered U.S. forces to leave the region, though the administration leveled no specific accusations at the U.S. military.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Special Forces maintained on Tuesday that the U.S. had no role in the deaths of civilians, and that the issue has been addressed by the U.S. military in Afghanistan.
“U.S. forces conducted several investigations which determined there was no credible evidence to substantiate misconduct by ISAF or U.S. forces,” stated the spokesperson. “Having said that, ISAF takes all allegations of detainee abuse seriously and we will continue to cooperate with the Afghan government on this matter.”
But the Afghan Defense Ministry’s head of intelligence, Maj. Gen. Manan Farahi, told reporters last week that complaints of abuse from Wardak residence continued after Kandahari fled the region prior to his arrest, suggesting that the U.S. troops may bear some responsibility for the atrocities committed in the region.
“Everybody knows…that Zakaria Kandahari and these people with him were there with the Americans and were working for the Americans. Whether they killed people on their own or were directed by the Americans to kill people, it needs extensive investigation,” stated Farahi. “Now that Mr. Kandahari is in custody, most of these things will become clear.”