Latest News

Hundreds bury Afghan who died at Guantánamo

Hundreds of mourners, some chanting anti-American slogans, turned out Monday for the funeral of an Afghan prisoner at Guantánamo Bay who collapsed and died while exercising at the U.S. detention center last week.

The mourners ran alongside a vehicle carrying the body of 48-year-old Awal Gul - the seventh detainee to die at the detention center in Cuba since it was opened in January 2002. Gul's body was wrapped in white cloth, but his face and long, black beard were visible inside the coffin, which was buried in Jalalabad, east of Kabul.

The U.S. military said he was an "an admitted Taliban recruiter" who met several times with Osama bin Laden. Matthew Dodge, one of the attorneys who had been fighting for Gul's release, has called the allegations "outlandish."

Separately, Afghanistan's High Peace Council has asked for the release of Khairullah Khairkhwa, a former Taliban official who has been held at Guantánamo for more than eight years, so he can help facilitate peace talks between the government and Taliban leaders.

, said he received an e-mail last month from a legal adviser to the peace council, saying the council wanted the detainee released and repatriated to Afghanistan to help with the peace process. The e-mail said Khairkhwa could be repatriated under certain conditions, including that he stay in Kabul, though not in confinement.

Goldsmith said he is working with the legal adviser to prepare a formal written request that would be sent to the U.S. State Department.

"We would like to get him released in any legitimate way that we can and if the government wants to accede to the request from the High Peace Council that would be great with us, of course," he said in a phone interview from his office in Marion, North Carolina.

Goldsmith, who earlier filed a petition for Khairkhwa's release, said the U.S. government has not indicated whether it plans to charge or release the detainee.

Despite efforts to reconcile with insurgents, violence continues across Afghanistan.

A suicide bomber killed one person and wounded five others in southern Afghanistan's largest city of Kandahar on Monday, hours after attackers gunned down a local government chief in the country's volatile eastern borderlands.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for both attacks.

A homemade bomb also claimed the life of a NATO service member in a separate attack in the country's south, the sixth coalition member killed this month. NATO didn't disclose the person's nationality or location of the blast.

The Kandahar suicide bomber detonated explosives inside the city's customs house compound during a visit by NATO forces, police chief Khan Mohammad Mujahid said. He said the person killed was an Afghan interpreter.

The government facility is used by businesspeople and truck drivers to clear customs paperwork on imported goods. Visitors typically undergo vehicle inspections and pat-downs to enter, raising questions about the adequacy of security procedures there and whether the bomber knew international troops would be nearby.

U.S. and NATO commanders insist they are making progress in the fight against the Taliban and its allies. NATO said it and Afghan security forces detained several suspected insurgents during a raid Sunday targeting a leader of the Haqqani network, a group with ties to the Taliban and al Qaeda. NATO said he was responsible for coordinating bombings in Khost province.

NATO also announced a child was accidentally killed during an airstrike targeting insurgent operations in the southern Helmand province. U.S. Army Col. Patrick Hynes of the NATO Afghan mission's joint command called the accident "deeply regrettable."

The U.S. hopes to solidify gains against insurgents as it prepares to begin drawing down forces in July. NATO aims to hand over responsibility for Afghanistan's security to local forces by 2014.

A New York University report released Monday by researchers based in Kandahar argues that the Taliban's older leadership is finding it increasingly difficult to control insurgency efforts as their ranks thin and their authority wanes.

The report says al Qaeda and the Taliban remain separate groups with distinct objectives despite their shared opposition to U.S.-led forces in the region. But as the Taliban chain of command weakens, they say lower-level leaders are becoming more financially independent and open to manipulation by al Qaeda.

Related stories from Miami Herald