More US soldiers in death of 16 - claim

2012-03-18 17:21

Kabul - A shooting spree in Afghanistan that left 16 civilians dead a week ago was the work of a team of US soldiers, not an individual as has been reported, a member of the Afghan parliamentary investigative team told dpa on Sunday.

"After our investigations, we came to know that the killings were not carried out by one single soldier. More than a dozen soldiers went, killed the villagers and then burnt the bodies," lawmaker Naheem Lalai Hameedzai told dpa.

But that account conflicts with statements from US officials, as well as with separate testimony from some people present during the attacks.

Hameedzai said the results of the probe by lawmakers has been presented to the legislature.

He also said the Afghan parliament had urged President Hamid Karzai to change the legal status of foreign soldiers deployed in the war-torn country.

The US has said one soldier carried out the dawn attack on a village in Panjwai district in Kandahar province. That soldier - identified as Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, 38 - is now in US military custody.

"All the villagers that we talked to said there were 15 to 20 men [who] had conducted a night raid operation in several areas in the village," said Hameedzai.

"One house where the incident took place is located in a village north of the base. The other two are in another village in the south of the base. There is at least 4km between the base and the houses."

Hameedzai also said some of the Afghan women who were killed were sexually assaulted, according to the findings.

Lying for political gains

"According to eyewitnesses, they could not confirm the rape. But the women's clothes were torn," he said.

However, Kandahar governor's media office said local elders refuted the claim, saying the lawmaker was "lying for political gains".

Meanwhile, the parliament in Kabul urged Karzai to revoke an agreement that protects foreign troops in the country from facing legal proceedings in Afghanistan.

"During our investigations, the Americans themselves told us that, because Afghanistan signed the military agreement, US soldiers could not be tried inside the country," parliamentarian Naheem Lalai Hameedzai told dpa.

"We have passed a resolution unanimously to dissolve the military contract, and we have sent the resolution to President Karzai. He has not signed on it yet," Hameedzai said.

"After the Panjwai incident, we have decided that we do not need any such contracts any more," he said.

Afghans have asked for a public legal proceeding in Afghanistan for the alleged murderer. But, according to reports, he was flown to the US over the weekend, while the investigations continue.

Impudent foreigners

Military officials with the Nato-led international forces have said the legal status of international soldiers is regulated in the military technical agreement between Afghanistan and the international community and "very clearly regulates the responsibility for the legal handling of any activities of the international soldiers".

The US and Nato officials have said they ensure that there will be legal consequences for the killings in Kandahar.

On Monday, the Afghan parliament issued a statement saying its patience was running out as a result of "the imprudence of foreign troops".

The killings by the soldier have caused public outrage against the US.

Karzai on Friday expressed anger at the United States for not co-operating in the investigation into the Kandahar killings. He also said the killing was not carried out by one man and it was a deliberate and intentional act.

A day earlier, Karzai demanded that all security responsibilities be handed from foreign to Afghan forces by 2013 - a year ahead of schedule, which would be a serious blow to the Nato-led transition plan.

- SAPA
Read more on:    nato  |  robert bales  |  hamid karzai  |  us  |  afghanistan  |  afghanistan shooting
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