U.S. turns six detainees over to Afghan governor after protests at Bagram
A day after an estimated 1,000 Afghans chanted “Die America!” and tried to break through a gate of Bagram Air Field, the U.S. military handed over six disputed detainees to the control of a local governor, officials said Wednesday.
The six men were detained during a raid just outside of the base on Monday. According to U.S. officials, the men had a rocket-propelled grenade, a rocket launcher and timing device, an AK-47 assault rifle with armor-piercing rounds and “a variety of demolition materials.”
But shortly after U.S. forces brought the men to a detention facility at Bagram, swarms of villagers descended on the base, protesting the arrests. According to news accounts, the protestors threw stones at a passing U.S. convoy, busting some of the windows. In return, those inside the vehicles fired warning shots into the air, though the protestors did not disperse.
After consultations with Afghan leaders, the compromise of releasing the six men into the local governor’s custody was reached. The six men were released late Tuesday night, officials said.
“The governor took control of the six based upon an agreement that they would be available for further questioning regarding the circumstances leading to their detention,” read a news release issued by the U.S. command.
The protest was an unusual event at Bagram, a large base around one hour’s drive from Kabul. There have been few clashes in the area since U.S. forces took over the base — formerly a Soviet compound — as its main operating hub in northern Afghanistan.
According to reports of the protest, villagers were angry about the detentions because they happened without the U.S. “consulting local authorities,” The Associated Press reported.
“We have supported the Americans for years. We should be treated with dignity,” Shah Aghar, a 35-year-old protestor, was quoted as saying by the AP. “They are breaking into our houses and offending the people. We are very angry.”