Afghans de­mand swift trial in civil­ian killings

Pen­tagon says no speedup in U.S. pull­out

The Washington Times Daily - - World - BY ASHISH KUMAR SEN AND KRISTINA WONG

Afghans on Mon­day de­manded a swift trial and pun­ish­ment for the U.S. sol­dier ac­cused of killing 16 civil­ians, in­clud­ing women and chil­dren, while the Tal­iban vowed to avenge the killings.

Mean­while, the De­fense Depart­ment said the U.S. will stay the course in Afghanistan, de­spite Sun­day’s slay­ings of civil­ians and re­cent deadly un­rest af­ter the burn­ing of copies of the Ko­ran at a mil­i­tary base.

“I want to em­pha­size very strongly, de­spite what some peo­ple might be say­ing out, we are ab­so­lutely not chang­ing our fun­da­men­tal strat­egy in Afghanistan,” Pen­tagon spokesman Ge­orge Lit­tle said Mon­day.

Army au­thor­i­ties in Afghanistan have de­tained a 38-year-old staff sergeant who had turned him­self in at his base in Kan­da­har prov­ince. He is ac­cused of go­ing to three dif­fer­ent vil­lages more than a mile from his base, break­ing into three houses, shoot­ing 16 civil­ians and then burn­ing the bod­ies of 11 of them.

The As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported that the sergeant is with the 2nd Bat­tal­ion, 3rd In­fantry Reg­i­ment of the 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd In­fantry Di­vi­sion, and was as­signed to the vil­lage sta­bil­ity pro­gram in Be­lam­bai, a halfmile from one of the vil­lages where the at­tack took place.

“This is an iso­lated in­ci­dent, and we will pur­sue ac­count­abil­ity for the al­leged ac­tions of this ser­vice mem­ber,” Mr. Lit­tle said, adding that an Army in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the in­ci­dent has be­gun.

Nonethe­less, the vi­o­lence has oc­curred as public outrage over the ac­ci­den­tal burn­ing of Ko­rans at a U.S. mil­i­tary base was be­gin­ning to sub­side. Six Army sol­diers were killed in protests and at­tacks over the burn­ing in re­cent weeks.

The Ko­ran-burn­ing fol­lowed the post­ing in Jan­uary of an In­ter­net video of four Marines uri­nat­ing on the corpses of Tal­iban fight­ers had caused an up­roar in Afghanistan.

“These in­ci­dents are feed­ing the in­sur­gency and will have a di­rect im­pact on the strate­gic part­ner­ship, with­drawal of U.S. troops and the NATO con­fer­ence” in Chicago, said an Afghan of­fi­cial, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity cit­ing the sen­si­tive na­ture of the is­sue.

In­ter­na­tional troops are sched­uled to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

U.S. and Afghan of­fi­cials hope to reach an agree­ment on their strate­gic re­la­tion­ship in time for the NATO sum­mit in May.

On Mon­day, the Tal­iban vowed to “take re­venge from the in­vaders and the sav­age mur­der­ers for ev­ery sin­gle mar­tyr with the help of Al­lah and they shall re­ceive pun­ish­ment for their bar­baric ac­tions,” the mil­i­tant group said on its web­site.

The mil­i­tants, who them­selves have killed thou­sands of civil­ians, ac­cused “sick minded Amer­i­can sav­ages” of “com­mit­ting a blood-soaked and in­hu­mane crime.”

The Tal­iban state­ment ap­peared to an­tic­i­pate an ex­pla­na­tion from the U.S. that the sol­dier in­volved in the in­ci­dent is men­tally un­sta­ble.

“If the per­pe­tra­tors of this mas­sacre were in fact men­tally ill, then this tes­ti­fies to yet an­other moral trans­gres­sion by the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary be­cause they are arm­ing lu­natics in Afghanistan who turn their weapons against the de­fense­less Afghans with­out giv­ing a sec­ond thought,” the Tal­iban stated.

The Tal­iban con­trol large swathes of Kan­da­har prov­ince.

The Kan­da­har killings roiled a ses­sion of the Afghan Na­tional Assem­bly on Mon­day.

Mem­bers of the lower house in­tro­duced a res­o­lu­tion declar­ing that Afghans had “run out of pa­tience with the ar­bi­trary ac­tions of for­eign forces.” They de­manded that the U.S. gov­ern­ment pun­ish the per­pe­tra­tors of the at­tack and “try them in a public trial be­fore the peo­ple of Afghanistan.”

Law­mak­ers rep­re­sent­ing Kan­da­har walked out of the ses­sion to protest the shoot­ings.

“If [ Afghan Pres­i­dent Hamid] Karzai can­not stop such in­ci­dents, he should re­sign,” Muhammad Naeem Lalai Hamidzai, who rep­re­sents Kan­da­har in the lower house of par­lia­ment, said in a phone in­ter­view from Kabul.

Mr. Karzai on Sun­day said the in­ci­dent was an “as­sas­si­na­tion, an in­ten­tional killing of in­no­cent civil­ians and can­not be for­given.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

An Afghan po­lice­man stands guard as a part­ner searches a taxi pas­sen­ger at a po­lice check­point af­ter Sun­day’s killing of civil­ians al­legedly by a U.S. sol­dier in Kan­da­har prov­ince, south of Kabul. An Afghan youth re­counted Mon­day a ter­ri­fy­ing scene in his home as a lone gun­man moved stealth­ily through it on a killing spree.

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