KABUL, Afghanistan — A cousin of President Hamid Karzai was killed Thursday in southern Afghanistan during a raid by coalition forces, just after the president had said civilian casualties from the war were damaging relations with the United States.
Yar Mohammed, 60, was shot in the head inside his home in Karzai's home village, Karz, just outside Kandahar city, Afghan officials said. A statement from U.S.-led coalition forces described him as the father of a Taliban leader and said he had been shot after he was seen with an AK-47 assault rifle. But that description was withdrawn later, and international forces said the episode was under investigation.
Mohammed, a second cousin to Karzai, was not thought to be close to the president, but the killing seemed likely to add to Karzai's rancor over the price that civilians are paying. Night raids, a controversial tactic that has been intensified since Army Gen. David Petraeus took command of International Security Assistance Force last year, claimed 80 civilian lives last year, according to the U.N.
As the Karzai family stronghold is not known to have a Taliban presence, picking Karz for a night raid suggested an intelligence failure. A darker possibility also existed: that Mohammed was targeted by a false tip from a rival in a family feud.
Karzai family reaction was muted.
"It was an unfortunate accident. It was a mistake, not intentional," Ahmed Wali Karzai, one of the president's brothers and the head of the Kandahar provincial council, told McClatchy Newspapers. "It was being in the wrong place at the wrong time."
The shooting came the same day that coalition figures on civilian casualties, made public by Science magazine, showed that the foreign militaries operating in Afghanistan recorded just half the number of victims the United Nations listed in its annual report on deaths in the country, suggesting that the coalition isn't tracking the full human cost of the war. The figures differed markedly from U.N. figures that were released Wednesday.
According to the coalition's data, international troops killed 202 Afghan civilians last year. The U.N. said coalition or Afghan forces had killed 440 civilians. The coalition's number didn't include deaths caused by Afghan forces, but that didn't account for most of the discrepancy.
Similarly, the coalition counted 1,178 civilians killed last year by insurgents, compared with 2,085 in the U.N. study.