PRAGUE, March 31, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Afghan authorities have detained a border-police commander from the southern province of Kandahar who is accused of ordering the killing of 16 Pakistani residents near the border town of Spin Boldak.
Kandahar's governor, Assadullah Khalid, said commander Abdul Razzak has been temporarily replaced at his post while the Afghan Interior Ministry investigates the killings.
Razzak claimed last week that the 16 men were Taliban fighters who attacked border police post near Spin Boldak on March 21 after crossing illegally from Pakistan into Afghanistan.
But Saqib Aziz, a official in the Pakistani border town of Chaman, said the 16 men were from the Nurzai tribe who were traveling to a Norouz festival in Afghanistan. Aziz alleged that Razzak ordered the men to be killed as part of an ongoing blood feud.
Commander Razzak had reportedly been involved in a blood feud with the men since his brother was killed in a dispute with the Nurzai clan two years ago.
Some reports say the 16 men managed to travel all the way to Kabul to celebrate Norouz. Those reports claim that information about their arrival in Kabul was sent to Razzak by an informant who was aware of the blood feud. The reports also allege that Razzak's men detained all 16 men at a house in Kabul -- then took them back to an isolated spot near Spin Boldak, where they were killed.
In an interview with RFE/RL today, Kandahar Governor Khalid confirmed that the Afghan Interior Ministry's investigation is focusing on all of those allegations. However, he said that "at this point, before the investigation is completed, we can neither confirm nor reject these claims."
But Khalid also noted that the 16 men killed by Razzak's police officers had criminal records in both Afghanistan and Pakistan -- as well as suspected ties to an organized criminal group.
A senior Interior Ministry official in Kabul, General Abdul Rahman, said today that Razzak was taken into custody in Kandahar last week. He said Razzak was not fired, but has been suspended from his post until the investigation is completed.
(Sultan Sarwar of RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan contributed to this report.)