Vigilante fooled Nato into helping raids

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The Independent Online

An American vigilante caught running a private torture chamber in Kabul fooled Nato soldiers into joining illegal raids with him three times, the military admitted yesterday.

An American vigilante caught running a private torture chamber in Kabul fooled Nato soldiers into joining illegal raids with him three times, the military admitted yesterday.

Jonathan Idema, a retired US Special Forces soldier, called bomb-disposal squads to buildings where he seized Afghans. The Afghans were later found hanging upside down in his secret prison.

A spokesman for Isaf, the Nato-led peace-keeping force, said Idema, who was in US uniform, had been "very credible". Isaf eventually realised the US military task force Idema and two other foreigners said they belonged to did not exist.

Commander Chris Henderson said: "They were operating in military style, with US flags on their shoulders, and representing themselves in such a way that Isaf believed them to be who they said they were." Special Forces soldiers in Afghanistan wear a mix of civilian and military clothing and adopt a buccaneering style.

Commander Henderson said explosive traces and suspicious electrical components had been found at two of the places Idema called Isaf to. He said the Afghan intelligence service is now handling the arrests.

Idema was detained in Kabul last week after a shoot-out with Afghan security forces. Outlandish claims have been made about him, such as that he foiled a plot to kill President Hamid Karzai. Other reports say Idema was jailed for three years in the US for fraud and is suing George Clooney for $130m (£70m) for the film The Peacemaker, claiming the star's role is modelled on one of his exploits. Idema arrived in Afghan-istan in 2001, claiming to be a freelance adviser to the Northern Alliance. He may also have been hunting the $25m bounty on Osama bin Laden. Isaf refused to confirm that an American TV producer was arrested with Idema.

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