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NATO probes shooting death of Karzai's cousin in area under Canadian command

Afghan President Hamid Karzai on March, 7, 2011. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Dar Yasin.

NATO launched an investigation Thursday after a cousin of Afghan President Hamid Karzai was shot to death by troops during a night-time raid in a Kandahar district under Canadian command.

Regional Command South, which oversees NATO operations in southern Afghanistan, initiated the probe after Yar Muhammad Karzai, 63, was fatally shot in the village of Karz in Dand, a district south of Kandahar city.

Haji Hamdullah Nazak, Dand’s district governor, said the night-time operation was conducted without his knowledge.

“Special forces didn’t tell me that they are doing an operation,” Nazak said. “If they (had) my suggestion, it would not have happened.”

“I am against these kind of operations where they kill a person like Yar Muhammad Karzai.”

Nazak said he didn’t know whether Canadian or U.S. special-forces were involved.

Ahmed Wali Karzai, the head of Kandahar’s provincial council and the president’s brother, said the shooting should not have happened.

“He was shot by mistake,” he told The Canadian Press. “I am very tense and angry about this news.”

NATO said it initially believed that the man shot dead was the father of a Taliban leader, and that security forces shot him when a soldier saw “an armed individual with an AK-47” in a compound where it conducted an operation.

“The security force assessed the male as an immediate threat to the security force, and engaged him,” NATO said in a statement.

“Coalition forces are aware of conflicting reports about the identities of those involved, and have initiated an inquiry to determine the facts.”

The Canadian military deferred questions to NATO, which declined further comment.

Dand is a district south of Kandahar city and is under the command of Canadian Forces in Afghanistan, though it is patrolled mainly by U.S. troops.

The incident is bound to test relations between the president and NATO, which have already become strained because of civilian shooting deaths in recent weeks.

Earlier this week, the president rejected an apology from Gen. David Petraeus, the top NATO military commander, for the mistaken killing of nine boys during an air strike on March 1 in a remote region of eastern Afghanistan.

Those deaths led to protests demanding the withdrawal of foreign troops.

— With files from A.R. Khan