The Associated Press reports: Afghan lawmakers expressed anger Thursday over the U.S. move to fly an American soldier accused of killing 16 civilians out of the country to Kuwait, saying Kabul shouldn’t sign a strategic partnership agreement with Washington unless the suspect faces justice in Afghanistan.
Negotiations over the agreement, which would govern the presence of U.S. forces in Afghanistan after most combat troops withdraw by the end of 2014, were tense even before the shooting deaths of the civilians, including nine children, in southern Kandahar province on Sunday.
The killings came in the wake of violent protests last month triggered by American soldiers who burned Qurans and other Islamic texts. Over 30 people were killed in those demonstrations, and Afghan forces turned their guns on their supposed allies, killing six U.S. soldiers.
The U.S. flew the suspect out of the country on Wednesday evening, said U.S. officials. The U.S. military said the transfer did not preclude the possibility of trying the case in Afghanistan.
But that didn’t appease Afghans upset at the move.
“It was the demand of the families of the martyrs of this incident, the people of Kandahar and the people of Afghanistan to try him publicly in Afghanistan,” said Mohammad Naeem Lalai Hamidzai, a Kandahar lawmaker who is part of a parliamentary commission investigating the shootings.
The AP also reports: The U.S. serviceman suspected in the massacre of more than a dozen Afghan civilians is a 38-year-old father of two who served three tours in Iraq and is based in Washington state. Still, days after the slayings, the military has kept under wraps one of the most salient details — his name.
Military officials said it was military policy not to release the name until charges are filed. But military experts said this case seems unusual.
“This is unprecedented in my experience,” said Eugene Fidell, who teaches military law at Yale University. “It’s very strange.”
Fidell speculated that the military was focused on ensuring the safety of the soldier’s family.
Information has also been limited inside the military. Jill Barber, a wife of a staff sergeant in the same battalion as the suspect, said she learned of the Sunday shooting only from news coverage. She said her husband wasn’t allowed to call her for more than a day after the shooting and that soldiers can get in trouble for talking about it.
“They shut everything down over there,” Barber, of Yelm, about 60 miles south of Seattle, said Monday. “I didn’t even find out about it from him. They’re not allowed to say anything.”