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Kandahar, Afghanistan -
A local Afghan police commander was accused of fatally shooting 11 civilians in southern Afghanistan, one day after militants killed two of his friends, officials said on Thursday.
“He killed the civilians, accusing them of being responsible for the death of his friends,” said an Afghan official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The official identified the commander allegedly involved in Wednesday's shootings in the southern province of Uruzgan only as Commander Shujaee, an ethnic Hazara, and the victims as ethnic Pashtuns.
The Interior Ministry denied the shootings took place, but Obaidullah Barakzai - a member of the Afghan parliament from Khas Uruzgan district, where the incident allegedly happened - said the police commander took villagers outside their houses and shot them without any reason.
Shujaee was the commander of the Afghan Local Police - a neighbourhood watchdog-like force formed by the Afghan government and the US military to fight the Taliban and protect villages in far-flung areas where Afghan national security forces are not stationed.
“We can not confirm this (shooting),” said Sediq Sediqqi, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, which is responsible for the Afghan Local Police. “These allegations are baseless.”
But Barakzai charged that the commander had acted similarly before.
“This is not first time he has killed innocent people,” said the lawmaker, a former Khas Uruzgran governor.
Barakzai said the commander had been arrested before and sent to Kabul but was released.
Tension exists between Afghanistan's three largest ethnic groups - the Pashtuns, the Tajiks and the Hazaras - but there is no record of ethnic violence in recent years.
The Taliban are mostly Pashtuns, who are Sunni Muslims. Afghan President Hamid Karzai is also a Pashtun.
Hazaras are mostly from the central highlands and the north. They are Shi’a.
During the 1992-96 civil war, thousands of Hazaras and Pashtuns were killed in ethnically motivated violence.
The Hazaras were also targeted by the Taliban during their 1996-2001 rule.
The Taliban movement claimed on Thursday on its website that a local police militia had killed 18 civilians in a raid in Khas Uruzgan. - Sapa-dpa