By Maria Abi-Habib
KABUL—A U.S. soldier is being held for the alleged shooting of an Afghan detainee found dead in his holding cell in southern Kandahar province on Sunday, according to a statement from U.S. officials.
U.S. soldiers search for weapons on an Afghan man in a village near Kandahar. There are many stories of foreign forces raiding homes and detaining innocent people. (Photo: REUTERS)
The motive behind the shooting is unclear, but the statement from U.S. Forces in Afghanistan said the deceased detainee was "a senior leader of the Taliban network in Arghandab" district, Kandahar.
Afghan and coalition officials said in an interview that the soldier removed other inmates from the holding cell in which the detainee was held before the shooting.
Two separate investigations will be launched by Afghan officials and another by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division, according to statements from both parties.
The case comes as five U.S. Army soldiers, from a unit that is no longer deployed in Afghanistan, are facing trial in the U.S. for allegedly shooting Afghans for sport in Kandahar province.
The U.S.-led coalition is in a public-affairs offensive to clean up its image in Afghanistan while trying to reduce civilian casualties.
On Monday, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization released a statement saying a detainee was found dead in his holding cell on Sunday, after being arrested during an operation on Saturday night.
"The detainee was shot after four or five other detainees were taken out of the holding cell," said an Afghan official familiar with the investigation. "After the shot was heard, the soldiers went to the cell and found the dead body."
The Afghan official's account was confirmed by coalition officials.
"According to the reports from Arghandab district, on Sunday night at 9:30 p.m., coalition forces entered a jail in Arghandab district and killed an inmate named Mullah Muhibullah," said a statement released from the office of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
A Taliban spokesman said he had no information on the death of the detainee.
Arghandab is currently the focus of a major U.S.-led military offensive to dislodge the Taliban from its strategic stronghold in Kandahar province. A majority of the 30,000 U.S. troop surge ordered in December have been deployed in the south and east of the country.
In a separate development, the Afghan government said it is sending a delegation to look into reports of a secret prison at one of the coalition's main bases, Bagram Air Field, northeast of Kabul. Last week, the Open Society Institute published a report alleging that detainees were abused in a secret prison at Bagram as recently as this year.
President Karzai "assigned a delegation to find out about the possibility of such a prison," the president's spokesman, Waheed Omar, said at a news conference Tuesday.
Coalition spokesmen have denied the existence of secret prisons at Bagram.
Habib Khan Totakhil contributed to this article.