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Mr. Himat said he understood that the Taliban had accused the Hazara men of being spies for the NATO coalition. Many interpreters for NATO and Special Operations forces are Hazaras, according to the police chief and the intelligence representative.
About two weeks ago, Special Operations forces working with Afghan commandos raided a house in the area where mostly Hazaras live, but where there are also scattered Pashtun families. The Special Operations forces and the Afghan commandos killed several militants and three brothers of a Taliban commander who were all in the house, said the intelligence representative. Afterward, someone told the Taliban that it was Hazaras that had tipped off the Special Operations forces about the house.
Although there were reports that the men were beheaded, the area is so remote that both Mr. Himat and the intelligence representatives said they had not been able to verify the account. One man survived the attack, but they had not yet spoken to him, Afghan security officials said.
NATO has suffered 83 casualties in Afghanistan this month, the worst death toll for international forces since the conflict began in 2001.
Militants have been increasing attacks ahead of a planned military effort by NATO to drive Taliban insurgents out of southern Kandahar city and surrounding areas.