KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — President Hamid Karzai accused Afghan guards working for U.S. coalition forces of killing a provincial police chief and at least four other security officers during a gunbattle outside a government office Monday.
In a harshly worded statement, Karzai demanded that coalition forces hand over the private security guards involved. But the governor of Kandahar later said that 41 guards connected to the incident had been disarmed and arrested by Afghan authorities.
The U.S. military said it was not involved in the shooting, calling it an "Afghan-on-Afghan incident." But Karzai's statement suggested that the security guards sought refuge at a U.S. coalition base after the killings, and he demanded that "coalition forces prevent such incidents, which weaken the government."
The president's accusations come as thousands of U.S. Marines and soldiers are deploying across southern Afghanistan, the Taliban's stronghold and a region where Karzai is also seeking votes from his Pashtun tribesmen in the Aug. 20 presidential election.
Gunfire broke out after Afghan security guards moved into the office of the district attorney in Kandahar and demanded the release of a man accused of forging documents, said Hafizullah Khaliqyar, Kandahar's district attorney.
The Afghan security guards threatened to release the suspect by force, so Khaliqyar called the provincial police chief, he said. It was not clear why they were trying to release the suspect.
"When the police chief wanted to talk to these people, there was some argument, and the gunbattle started," Khaliqyar said.
Among those killed were provincial police Chief Matiullah Qati.