Three foreigners, including at least one U.S. national, arrested in Kabul were apparently waging a private war against supposed terrorists, illegally holding Afghans, the Afghan interior minister said on Thursday.
The group, captured along with four Afghans after a brief shootout in Kabul on Monday, had been illegally detaining and interrogating locals, Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali said.
The three foreigners arrested included at least one U.S. national, he told a news briefing.
The U.S. embassy said the three identified themselves as Americans, but their nationalities still had to be confirmed.
“They apparently said that their aims were to act against those carrying out terrorist attacks,” Jalali said. “But they did not have a legal relationship with anyone and the United States was also chasing them — they are actually rebels.”
Jalali said the group, wearing local and foreign military uniforms according to police, had illegally held eight people.
Several Afghans with beards of the type favored by fundamentalist Muslims had been found detained in the house where the raid took place, police said.
U.S. embassy spokesman Roy Glover identified one of the men as Jonathan, or Jack, K. Idema, whom the U.S. military says had passed himself off as a U.S. government or military official.
The other foreigners had identified themselves as Edward Caraballo and Brent Bennett, but it was unclear if these were their real names or if they were U.S. nationals because the embassy had not seen their documents, Glover said.
Plain-clothes U.S. agents and private security contractors are a common sight in Kabul, but the U.S. military has suggested Idema is an imposter. In statements this week, it said Idema had “allegedly represented himself as an American government and/or military official.”
“The public should be aware that Idema does not represent the American government and we do not employ him,” a statement said.
An Afghan journalist working for a U.S. television network said a man he knew as Idema had sold what he described as al Qaeda training videos to U.S. networks.
News of the arrests comes when the U.S. military has been under scrutiny for its treatment of militant prisoners in Afghanistan, where it has been accused by U.S.-based Human Rights Watch of “systematic” abuse of detainees.
The military said on Wednesday that it had completed a review of conditions in its Afghan detention centers and parts would be released after submission to the U.S. Congress.
The military says it has investigated five deaths of prisoners in Afghanistan since August 2002 and last week said it was looking into a new allegation of prisoner abuse.
Last month, a CIA contractor was arrested on charges of beating a detainee who died in 2003, the first indictment brought in connection with prisoner abuse in Afghanistan.