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Death in the Salt Pit


The AP’s Kathy Gannon and Adam Goldman expand their coverage of the death of Gul Rahman in CIA custody in November 2002. They reveal a bit more about who Rahman was, starting with the fact that he apparently saved the life of a young deputy foreign minister named Hamid Karzai, who went on to become the American-installed president of Afghanistan:

The only prisoner known to have died in the CIA’s network of secret prisons once rescued Hamid Karzai, wading through rocket and small-arms fire to take the wounded future president to safety in Pakistan, according to his brother and former associates. The prisoner, Gul Rahman, died in the early hours of Nov. 20, 2002, after being shackled to a cold cement wall in a secret CIA prison in northern Kabul known as the Salt Pit, current and former U.S. officials familiar with the case confirmed. His family is appealing to the International Red Cross to return his body.

Rahman was captured about three weeks before his death in a raid in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad against Hezb-e-Islami, an Afghan insurgent group led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, which was believed to have ties to al-Qaida. Rahman was arrested along with Hekmatyar’s son-in-law, Dr. Ghairat Baheer. Baheer, who was later released, was part of a Hezb-e-Islami delegation that came to Kabul last month to talk peace with Karzai. Rahman’s brief association with the future Afghan president, reported by his brother Habib Rahman, adds an ironic twist to the account of his death at the hands of the CIA, and illustrates the complex history of the different Afghan factions still competing for power in this war-ravaged country.

This should add to the pressure to fully investigate this death, to exhume Rahman’s body and examine it, and to turn the remains over to his family. The CIA’s failure to do this only compounds suspicions about the circumstances of the death.

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