Tags: U.S.-trained | Commander | Killed | While | Looting

U.S.-trained Commander Killed While Looting

Wednesday, 02 January 2002 12:00 AM

They said the armed clash in which another soldier was shot dead and several more were wounded involved factions of Gen. Rashid Dostum’s predominantly Uzbek army roaming through communities populated by ethnic Pashtun farmers from southern Afghanistan.

Commander Hawaz fought closely with American military advisors during battles against the Taliban in nearby mountain ranges. He was leading a group of 20 men who were challenged at a roadblock outside the village of Yandarek when the clash occurred last Saturday. "We were warned that they had been breaking into houses and stealing from other villages,” says a local elder.

Criminal raids by Northern Alliance units have been the source of bitter complaints by local civilian authorities who are asking Gen. Dostum to disarm some of his men. The northern warlord who has been recently appointed deputy defense minister in Afghanistan’s new central government blames "bandits” who are not part of his forces for the wave of looting. But the Yandarek incident indicates that elite elements of his army are involved.

"Hawaz served in frontline positions in the Almurtak mountains where some of the heaviest fighting took place in battles with the Taliban,” Commander Haji Abib of the 18th barracks in Kalanji tells United Press International. Hawaz’s men spent some days at the Kalanji military compound outside Mazar-i-Sharif after the clash in which their leader was killed.

"Hawaz had been trained by the Americans and worked closely with a Captain Andy of the U.S. Special Forces during the battle for Mazar-i-Sharif,” says Abib, adding that after their brief stay in Kalanji, the accused looters were returned to their native village of Chimtol about 200 kilometers away.

Northern Alliance officers dispute claims that Hawaz’s men were raiding Yandarek when the shooting occurred. "They were trying to find a car to get back home and were mistaken for bandits,” says one officer at the Kalanji barracks who reports having spoken with the accused looters. But ethnic Pashtun residents of a neighboring village tell UPI that Uzbek soldiers had been pillaging their homes.

"They climbed onto the roof of my house and fired inside,” says one man. "They beat me up and took my watch,” says another. One local elder reports that they broke down the door to his home and made off with $100 and a tape recorder after raiding the local grocery store.

Commander Ayatollah who was in charge of 50 men providing local security for U.N. food distribution efforts says that it was the cries of alarm from surrounding villages which prompted him to order a roadblock along a dirt track leading into Yandarek. His men had taken up positions to protect a large farmhouse at the rear of the village when they confronted Hawaz’s marauding group and shots were exchanged. The firefight lasted for 20 minutes.

When their leader was riddled at close range by AK-47 automatic rifle fire, the accused looters fled into the surrounding countryside, hiding until they were picked up the next day by a 200-strong reaction force rushed to the area by Gen. Dostum.

"I wanted to keep Hawaz’s dead body and display it in front of my people to show them that justice had been done,” says the mayor of Yandarek who claims that several of his villagers had suffered past encounters with the rogue unit which had stolen cars and other property. But Dostum’s reaction force recovered Hawaz’s body and took it away.

While looting and pillaging by rogue troops has become widespread in northern Afghanistan, the Yandarek incident is one of the few cases in which an important Northern Alliance soldier has been identified as a perpetrator. The victimization of Pashtun communities by Uzbek soldiers could be a source of acute embarrassment to Dostum as he assumes a cabinet position in the new national government headed by Prime Minister Hamid Karzai, an ethnic Pashtun.

Past excesses against civilians by Hazara forces of the Northern Alliance led to the exile from Afghanistan of Hazara leader, Gen. Tamik although his brother now leads Hazara forces which are also reported to be running rampant through the countryside and cities.

But far from punishing or even investigating units of his army, Gen. Dostum appears to be covering up alleged crimes by his soldiers. Northern Alliance officers report that no disciplinary action was taken against any of Hawaz’s 20 men while they were billeted at the Kalanji barracks and that they have been allowed to keep their weapons.

It’s feared that Northern Alliance troops could become more disorderly and revert to ethnic factional fighting as U.S. Special Forces pull out and turn over control of northern Afghanistan to U.N. peacekeepers.

"It seems that once he lost touch with the Americans when the heavy fighting ended, Hawaz felt he could do as he pleased,” says one Afghan official who believes Dostum is not prepared to take the necessary steps to impose discipline on his forces.

Armed clashes are taking place among Northern Alliance factions in villages near Mazar-i-Sharif populated by ethnic Pashtuns. Despite the coalition cabinet recently formed between northern warlords and Prime Minister Karzai, a native Pashtun from southern Afghanistan, rogue units of Uzbeks and Hazaras in Gen. Dostum’s army continue terrorizing local Pashtun communities.

Pashtun is Afghanistan’s largest ethnic group while the Northern Alliance is an umbrella organization representing ethnic minorities like Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks.

Ethnic and sectarian clashes killed more than 50,000 people in the Afghan capital, Kabul, alone when Dostum and other leaders of the Northern Alliance ruled Afghanistan from 1993-96.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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They said the armed clash in which another soldier was shot dead and several more were wounded involved factions of Gen. Rashid Dostum's predominantly Uzbek army roaming through communities populated by ethnic Pashtun farmers from southern Afghanistan. Commander Hawaz...
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Wednesday, 02 January 2002 12:00 AM
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