The U.S. military announced Wednesday that it has moved an army soldier suspected of killing 16 Afghan civilians in a rampage out of Afghanistan.
Charges have yet to be filed against a U.S. Army staff sergeant who witnesses say left his base in Kandahar province and went on a shooting rampage in two villages, killing 16 civilians, including several children.
Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby says U.S. forces moved him out of Afghanistan because they do not have the proper detention facilities. Kirby says the soldier's safety was also a factor.
"He's been in an interim facility since then at Kandahar, and now we have to, by our own policies and regulations, and for his own safety and security, and to be appropriately available to investigators, we had to move him to appropriate detention facilities," he said.
U.S. officials did not say where the suspect was taken, but that he was not returned to the United States. Officials are withholding his identity until charges are filed.
Some officials in the Afghan government have demanded that the soldier be tried in Afghanistan. U.S. officials say the case will be handled by the U.S. military justice system.
The transfer was announced as U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was on a visit to Afghanistan.
On his way to the region this week, Panetta said the soldier could face execution, if he is found guilty.
In a separate development, U.S. officials say an Afghan civilian stole a pickup truck from a coalition soldier and sped across a tarmac at a military base in southern Afghanistan as Panetta’s airplane was landing.
Officials say the suspect’s clothes caught fire after the truck crashed into a ditch, but that the secretary was not in danger.