NATO, civilians give 2 accounts of fatal operation

NATO said Monday that a Taliban commander was among several armed people killed during a search operation in Kandahar.

Afghanistan: NATO said Monday that a Taliban commander was among several armed people killed during a search operation in Kandahar, but residents claimed the troops killed eight innocent civilians, including two elderly men.

NATO said in a statement that coalition and Afghan troops went to a compound outside Kandahar city where they immediately came under hostile fire. The troops returned fire in self-defense and killed several armed men, including Taliban commander, Shyster Uhstad Khan, who was involved in the purchase and distribution of roadside bombs, NATO said.

The coalition said the combined force also detained an individual who was suspected of having direct contact with senior Taliban leaders in Kabul and facilitated the delivery of explosive devices to the capital.

Residents describe the search operation differently in Kandahar, where Afghan and coalition forces are ramping up security in hopes of driving out insurgents, gaining the loyalty of residents and bolstering the Afghan government`s control of the Taliban stronghold.

Mohmodullah, a relative of some of the victims, said to a news agency at the scene that eight civilians were killed when troops searched two homes around 2 a.m. Monday near Bagh-e-Pul.

"The NATO force climbed over our wall and shot two of my brothers and my father," said Mohmodullah, who uses one name. "They did the search operation and they didn`t find anything in our home so who gave them the authority to do it? If they were Taliban, they need to show us proof. Otherwise, they should be punished for it."

Mohammad Shah Farooqi, head of the investigation unit of the Kandahar police, agreed, saying, "We have no records on these people so it seems to me that they are locals or innocent people." But he said he was still working on a final investigative report to send to his superiors.

In eastern Ghazni province on Monday, a minivan exploded when it struck a roadside bomb in Andar district. At least three people were killed in the blast, but the death toll could be higher, according hospital officials and survivors who said there were 10 passengers in the van.

Mohammad Ismail Ibrahimzai, chief at the main hospital of Ghazni city, said three bodies had been recovered and two people were being treated. Andar district administrator Sher Khan Yasoufzai said it would be difficult to determine exactly how many people were killed because the scene of the powerful explosion was littered with body parts.

June has become the deadliest month of the war for NATO troops with at least 99 killed, 56 of them American. For US troops, the deadliest month was October 2009, with a toll of 59 dead.

In the capital Kabul, the lower house of parliament approved five new Cabinet members, including Gen. Bismullah Mohammadi as interior minister to replace the widely respected Hanif Atmar. He was dismissed this month along with the intelligence chief for allowing militants to elude a massive security operation and launch an attack on a national peace conference.

Two nominees — one for transport minister and the other higher education minister — were rejected. Both are ethnic Hazaras and their rejection angered lawmakers from the minority group.

"We are greatly disappointed," said Hazara lawmaker Mohammed Akbari. "It looks like discrimination against the Hazara people. Both were very strong, educated people and very talented. Their rejection is a betrayal of the Hazara."

Others approved included former Finance Minister Anwar ul-Haq Ahady as commerce minister; Jamaher Anwary as refugee minister; Abdul Qudos Hamidi as public works minister and former Kandahar Gov. Asadullah Khalid to head the border and tribal affairs ministry.

Thirteen ministers were confirmed earlier this year, leaving seven ministry posts open in the 25-member Cabinet.

Bureau Report