US defends moving massacre soldier out

2012-03-15 15:59

Kabul - A senior US commander defended on Thursday moving an American soldier accused of slaughtering 16 Afghan civilians out of Afghanistan to a military detention centre in Kuwait, saying it would help ensure a proper investigation and trial.

Furious Afghan civilians and members of parliament have demanded the staff sergeant be tried in Afghanistan over the shooting, one of the worst of its kind since US-backed Afghan forces toppled the Taliban in late 2001.

"This is really about being able to ensure that we can execute this investigation and the judicial proceedings fairly and properly," said Lieutenant-General Curtis Scaparrotti, the second most senior US commander in Afghanistan.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the suspect was moved to Kuwait, while Nato said only that the soldier was spirited from Afghanistan late on Wednesday.

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, in Kabul on a two-day visit to try to soothe Afghan anger, discussed the massacre with President Hamid Karzai at his heavily guarded palace and faced demands from the Afghan leader that any trial be transparent.

"I assured him first and foremost that I shared his regrets about what took place. I again pledged to him that we are proceeding with a full investigation here and that we will bring the individual involved to justice. He accepted that," Panetta told reporters.

Afghan demands

The killings in Kandahar province on Sunday have raised questions about Western strategy in Afghanistan and intensified calls for the withdrawal of foreign combat troops, most of whom are scheduled to pull out by the end of 2014.

Relatives of dead villagers and Afghan members of parliament have demanded that the US soldier be tried in Afghanistan under Afghan law.

"This is against our demands and we strongly condemn the moving of the soldier out of the country," said Shekiba Hashimi, a member of parliament from Kandahar, who is also on the government's investigating team.

"If he is not tried and punished in the country, people will rise up against the Americans," Hashimi said, pointing to fury that boiled into deadly riots last month after US soldiers inadvertently burned copies of the Qur'an.

Scaparrotti also said an Afghan man who emerged ablaze from a stolen pickup truck as an aircraft carrying Panetta landed at an Afghan base on Wednesday had died from burns suffered in the incident.

It was an extraordinary security breach inside a military base in Afghanistan's south and coincided with the beginning of the Pentagon chief's unannounced two-day visit.

No one harmed

The airfield incident and the Kandahar massacre underscored the instability in Afghanistan a decade into an increasingly unpopular war, and are the latest in a series of events that have fuelled anger among Afghans over the foreign presence.

The Afghan, a translator, had apparently tried to ram the truck into US Marines standing on a runway ramp at Camp Bastion in Helmand province.

"I have absolutely no reason to believe that any of this was directed at me," Panetta said, adding that that kind of incident was inevitable in war zones.

Scaparrotti said he doubted the man had any idea Panetta was arriving at the base. No one in Panetta's delegation was harmed.

It appeared the man had been carrying some kind of container that may have been holding fuel. A military dog was let loose on the driver and helped restrain him after he crashed the truck into a ditch, an official said.

"Those who were [there] described to me that [there was] a puff of smoke, and then the individual came out engulfed in flames. The security detachment there doused the flames and we took him for medical care," Scaparrotti said.

Next phase

After his talks with Karzai, Panetta said he was confident the two governments would reach a deal curbing night raids which are a major source of anger in Afghanistan and have severely dented Karzai's popularity despite his opposition to them.

A deal should be signed, he said, before Nato leaders gathered in US President Barack Obama's home city of Chicago on May 20-21 to decide the next phase of transition to Afghan security forces and their long-term funding.

Panetta is the highest-ranking US official to visit Afghanistan since the shooting rampage in Kandahar, which is the birthplace of the Taliban.

The Taliban have threatened to retaliate for the shootings by beheading US personnel, while insurgents have also attacked Afghan officials investigating the incident. But it is civilians who invariably bear the brunt of surges in violence.

In Washington, Obama said after meeting British Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday he did not anticipate any sudden change in plans for the pace of withdrawing troops.

Obama described the Kandahar massacre as tragic but emphasised at a briefing with Cameron that both nations remained committed to completing the Afghan mission "responsibly".

"In terms of pace, I don't anticipate at this stage that we're going to be making any sudden additional changes to the plan that we currently have," Obama said.

  • Jerzy - 2012-03-15 16:50

    He should be extradited to another country where he should be held without trial indefinitely since he is a threat to the Afghan people. He should be declared an enemy combatant and therefore have no rights under the Geneva convention. He should also be locked up for 23 hours a day and waterboarded (tortured) daily until he "confesses". Pages of the bible should also be torn out and flushed down the toilet and he should be deprived from any contact whatsoever with family or a legal team. Ooops! sorry!!! That only applies to captured muslims.

      Diaan - 2012-03-15 23:26

      Jerzy. I agree completely with you , same treatment for the same crime . I couldnt have put it better . yes he should also be send to an AFGAN equvalent of quantanama bay . But what I really would like to see is that they turn him loose in Kabul , so that the victims family deal with him .(I know my bloodthirsty wish will never materialise

      Fred - 2012-03-16 11:19

      The Bush administration is no longer in power. You're out of touch.

  • Rob - 2012-03-15 17:01

    Sick of this now. I hope there is an Afghan uprising & the Americans bomb them back to the stone age. These people kill with impunity & are always threatening the West with " DEATH TO...." One soldiers goes crazy & commits a terrible deed & they go on & on about it. Arab fanatics commit terrible acts of terror all over the world in the name of their God & the majority of Arabs rejoice. They deserve to be under Taliban rule. They throw rocks @ Israelies & use their children as human shields & when one kid dies, they wail & screech like it was'nt to be expected. Enough now !

      Rob - 2012-03-15 17:44

      Patrick....World poverty is caused by overbreeding & infighting, corruption & theft of a countries government. Why on earth should the Western countries be supporting those who are either too stupid to : A. Oppose a culture of overbreeding, which is a form of child abuse. B. Vote for an opposition government that could make a difference to their miserable lives. No sympathy there. If people make threats of violence on a continual basis, they must be subdued or taught a strong lesson. Violence begats violence. These fanatics have a lot to answer for.

      Shaun - 2012-03-15 17:55

      Rob you are so correct. I hate the fact that the Arab league are occupying all of these once free and sovereign western countries. Invading them and bombing their infrustructure to dust. We should all rebel and demand that they leave these poor western countries to sort out their issues on their own. Besides the Arab President promising that he would remove all Arab troops which were occupying England and the United States of America by August 2010. Oh wait thats wrong surely?

      Leon - 2012-03-15 18:05

      patrick get a job or a girlfriend please Afghanistan is not back in the stone age and as far as i can see is doing pretty well and most of the Afganis is pretty happy that the USA got rid of the taliban Why don't you comment on South African problems and do something about it That means get your lazy butt out of your flat and go and do something to help the hungry in South Africa and let the USA do there thing

      Fred - 2012-03-16 11:21

      Patrick, the vast majority of harm to "locals" has been by Al-Quaida and the Taliban, with their car and suicide bombs intentionally placed in public places. Not a peep from you about this.

  • Fawzia - 2012-03-15 17:17


      Rob - 2012-03-15 17:28

      I will stop generalising when Arabs / Muslims stop generalising about the West. But right now I am sick & tierd of hearing about Arabs or those of the Muslim faith issuing death threats left right & centre & being outraged about isolated incidents like this. Always up in arms about one thing or the other. America is too leniant as far as I am concerned. Last year an American Muslim soldier, gunned down a bunch of American soldiers on a base in America. Many were killed. You dont see Americans running in the streets fireing off AK 47's & screeching & wailing for a Jeehad on American Muslims, now do you. Put a sock in it & dont abuse the caps key.

      Rob - 2012-03-15 17:47

      Sorry Patrick....No I dont. Thats it, got to go.

      Shaun - 2012-03-16 08:04

      Patrick well said sir.

      Africa21stcentury - 2012-03-16 10:07

      Shaun, Why you call Patrick Sir ?? Because, he calls himself intelligent ? Because he lives on an estate ?? No wonder he does not give a damn about the "masses"

      Fred - 2012-03-16 11:22

      Patrick, your delusion is the biggest obstacle to your own peace.

      Fred - 2012-03-16 11:24

      Don't see you on the threads about the awful butchering of Muslims by Bashar Assad. Yet very vocal on the US threads. Clearly prejudiced. As a result, you have little credibility.

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