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UN official says foreign agents are killing Afghans
Afghanistan Violenc 5198583
An Afghan police officer stop a car at a check point in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, May 15, 2008. A suicide bomber wearing a burqa blew himself up at a crowded market in western Afghanistan on Thursday, killing 15 people and wounding 22 others, an official said. - photo by Associated Press
    KABUL, Afghanistan — Foreign intelligence agents are leading secret, deadly raids on suspected insurgents in Afghanistan and shirking responsibility when innocent civilians are killed, a U.N. official alleged Thursday.
    Philip Alston, a special investigator for the U.N. Human Rights Council, referred to three such recent raids in the country’s south and east.
    While he didn’t specifically mention any intelligence agencies, he appeared to imply American involvement. U.S. military officials declined to comment on the allegations.
    Alston said the raids were part of a wider problem of unlawful killings of civilians and lack of accountability in Afghanistan. He said about 500 civilians had been killed this year, most of them at the hands of the Taliban but some by Afghan police.
    The allegation came as a suicide bomber wearing a burqa attacked a police patrol in western Afghanistan, killing five police officers and seven civilians.
    Despite his criticism of secret raids, Alston said there was no evidence that international forces in Afghanistan are committing widespread intentional killings in violation of humanitarian law.
    He did not give the nationality of intelligence operatives involved in the mainly nighttime raids on militant suspects, but he mentioned one raid in January that killed two Afghan brothers. He said it was conducted by Afghans and personnel from a U.S. special forces base in Kandahar.
    He said Afghan government officials have said the victims had no connection to Taliban insurgents.
    ‘‘It is absolutely unacceptable for heavily armed internationals accompanied by heavily armed Afghan forces to be wandering around conducting dangerous raids that too often result in killings without anyone taking responsibility for them,’’ Alston told reporters after 12 days traveling in Afghanistan.
    He said foreign intelligence agencies were operating with apparent ‘‘impunity’’ in some provinces where insurgents are active.
    Alston did not disclose his sources of information, but said he had met with senior government ministers, the chief justice, the Afghan intelligence chief, international military commanders, members of civic groups and tribal elders.
    ‘‘Based on my discussions, there is no reason to doubt that at least some of these units are led by personnel belonging to international intelligence services,’’ he said.
    ‘‘I am trying to encourage both the Americans and the Afghan government and others to take some of this seriously,’’ Alston said.
    He said there had also been raids in the eastern province of Nangarhar — another hot bed of the Taliban insurgency and al-Qaida militants, where U.S. special forces and other American-led units operate.
    Such units are ‘‘composed of Afghans but with a handful, at most, of international people directing it,’’ Alston said.
    He said international military personnel he spoke with either claimed to be unaware of the raids, promised to look into his allegations or said they could do nothing about the situation.
    NATO and the U.S.-led coalition have nearly 70,000 soldiers fighting the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan and say they make every effort to prevent civilian casualties.
    Reports of civilian deaths from U.S. and NATO military operations decreased over the past year as the troops took more precautions amid concerns that such incidents had weakened public support for the foreign military presence.
    The result is that civilian deaths are increasingly being caused by insurgent suicide bombings.
    On Thursday, a suicide bomber wearing a burqa attacked police at a crowded market in the western province of Farah. Along with the 12 people killed, 27 were wounded.
    The provincial government said the bomber was a woman. The Taliban, who claimed responsibility for the attack, said the bomber was a man.
    Militants staged more than 140 suicide bombings in Afghanistan last year, and many of those killed in the attacks were civilians.
    At least 1,200 people — most of them militants — have died in insurgency-related violence in 2008, according to a tally compiled by The Associated Press based on reports from Afghan and Western officials.

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