Tuesday, September 6, 2011

This month America's Deadliest Month for US Troops in War Without End

Officials, family: American engineer kidnapped, killed in Afghanistan

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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An American civilian working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was kidnapped from his Afghanistan power plant and strangled to death, officials and family members said Tuesday, a rare incident despite widespread violence.

Carrie Hughes told The Associated Press that military officers came to her house near Charleston, South Carolina on Monday to inform her that her father, James W. "Will" Coker, had been killed.

It was not known who killed the American worker or under what circumstances he was abducted. Also Tuesday, the bodies of two Germans who had apparently been murdered were retrieved from a remote location. Neither area is known to be a hotbed of militant activity.

Coker was the only the third Pentagon civilian killed in 10 years of war in Afghanistan, said Maj. Monica Matoush, a Defense Department spokeswoman.

A Western official in Kabul who was briefed on the incident said that the man was kidnapped from a power plant where he was working on the outskirts of Kabul, and his body was later found in a cave in nearby hills. He was strangled with a belt, the official said, speaking anonymously to discuss matters of intelligence.

Kabul corps spokesman J.D. Hardesty confirmed that a corps employee had been killed but gave no further details.

About 60 miles (100 kilometers) to the north of the capital, meanwhile, Afghan police retrieved the bodies of two Germans found Monday on a remote mountain after they disappeared while hiking in Parwan province nearly three weeks ago.

While the area of eastern Afghanistan in and around the capital is relatively safe, the city of Kabul is a target for Taliban attacks and criminal kidnappings are common throughout the region.

In Parwan, police handed the Germans' bodies over to U.S. soldiers. A soldier at the site, Staff Sgt. Ashley Waruch, said that the bodies would be flown back to their families.

Their bodies were badly decomposed. Initial reports indicated they had been shot but Salamg district police chief Quddus Khan said on closer inspection the Germans might have died from blunt trauma. It was unclear when they died.

A spokesman for the Afghan agriculture ministry said the two worked for a German development and assistance organization, GIZ. Majeed Qarar, the spokesman, said they were advisers to the agriculture ministry and that they regularly went hiking in the mountains in Parwan.

The region where the Germans disappeared is not a Taliban area. The two traveled to the south end of the Salang Pass, north of Kabul, around 8 a.m. and told their driver they were going into the mountains. They promised to return at 4 p.m. The driver waited until 6 p.m. before contacting local authorities.

Further east in Nangarhar province meanwhile, a district government head and three of his bodyguards were killed in a roadside bomb blast, said Ahmadzia Abdulzai, a spokesman for the government of Nangarhar province.

The official, Asel Ahmad Khogyani, was driving in Sherzad district on Tuesday afternoon when a remotely detonated bomb went off, killing everyone in the vehicle, Abdulzai said.

In another development, NATO said Tuesday it has suspended transfers of Afghan detainees to a number of Afghan facilities because of allegations of torture.

The international military coalition has pushed in recent years to give the Afghan government more responsibility for oversight of Afghans taken into custody because of insurgent activity or suspicions of involvement in attacks, partly because of criticism that those held at U.S. detention centers in Afghanistan were mistreated and were not given any way to legally contest their detention.

But a pending U.N. report alleges that prisoners at the Afghan detention facilities have been beaten and, in some cases, given electric shocks, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported. The report goes on to give details of private jails run by some Afghan police, the BBC said.

As a result, NATO has suspended detainee transfers to a number of questionable facilities until it can verify if the allegations are true, a NATO official told The Associated Press. The official spoke anonymously because the report had not been officially released.

The report names sites in seven provinces across the country, according to the BBC.

A spokesman for the United Nations mission in Afghanistan said the U.N. had already presented the core of its findings to Afghan authorities.

Spokesman Dan McNorton said the findings did not suggest an institutional or government policy of mistreatment.

Afghan officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

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