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March 13, 2012

US Soldier Who Allegedly Killed Civilians Flown Out of Afghanistan

by Luis Ramirez

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.

A U.S. service member's shooting rampage Sunday in a rural Afghan village is the latest strain on an often tense relationship between Washington and Kabul. These are other key incidents to have sparked discord:

February 20, 2012: U.S. soldiers burn copies of the Quran, said to be filled with extremist messages, in a landfill at the U.S. Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan. The burning sparks days of deadly anti-American protests across the country, leaving more than 30 Afghans and American soldiers dead.

January 11, 2012: A video surfaces on the Internet showing what appears to be four U.S. marines urinating on the bodies of three suspected Taliban fighters. In the less than minute-long video, a soldier is heard saying, "Have a great day, buddy."

May 4, 2009: The Afghan government says a U.S. airstrike targeting Taliban insurgents in western Afghanistan kills at least 140 civilians, including many children, in the village of Granai.

July 6, 2008: A U.S. air strike thought be targeting insurgents strikes a caravan of Afghan civilians traveling to a wedding. The attack kills 47 people, including 39 women and 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.