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Afghan Leader Says U.S. Not Cooperating On Massacre Probe

March 16, 2012

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has criticized the United States, saying it's not cooperating on an investigation into a killing spree allegedly carried out by a U.S. soldier.

Speaking in Kabul at a meeting with families of 16 Afghan civilians killed on March 11 in southern Afghanistan, Karzai said Afghan investigators had not received the cooperation expected.

He also said relatives of the dead insisted there must have been more than one U.S. soldier involved.

"On the question of the account of the one person, supposedly, who has done this, the story of the village elders and the affected is entirely different," Karzai said. "They believe it is not possible for one person to do that."

Those claims conflict with initial descriptions made to journalists by Afghan witnesses just hours after the killings in the Panjwai district of Kandahar Province.

But Karzai said the lack of cooperation from the U.S. military ha raised suspicions among Afghans.

"The army chief has just reported, I don't know if you read his report, that the Afghan investigation team did not receive the cooperation that they expected from the United States," Karzai added.

"Therefore, these are all questions that we will be raising and raising very loudly and raising very clearly."

Previously, Afghan investigators claimed the U.S. military was holding back surveillance video related to the massacre. U.S. officials did show Afghan investigators video of a single U.S. soldier surrendering after the killings.

Karzai: 'This Cannot Continue'

Anger at foreign troops already has been high since the accidental burning of Korans at a NATO military base in February. Since the Panjwai killings, anger appears to be increasingly directed at Karzai -- with two of his brothers shot at earlier this week as they met with villagers at a nearby mosque.

On March 16, Karzai told reporters he wanted a good relationship with the United States. But he said that was becoming increasingly difficult and that the United States needs to respect Afghan culture and laws.

"This has been going on for too long. You have heard me before. Therefore, it is by all means the end of the rope here," Karzai said.

"Nobody can afford such luxuries any more, if you can call it luxury. This form of activity, this behavior cannot be tolerated. It has passed, passed, passed the time."

Karzai said his government would not ask for compensation, but demanded that justice be served.

The U.S. staff sergeant suspected in the killings is accused of sneaking out of his base before dawn on March 11 and breaking into the homes of three Afghan families -- shooting 16 of them dead and burning some of the bodies. Another five people were wounded.
The name of the suspect has not been released, but officials have revealed that he was a 38-year-old based in Washington state who previously had served three tours of duty in Iraq.

The soldier reportedly was being flown on March 16 to a military prison in the United States for trial, despite calls from Afghan lawmakers for a trial in an Afghan court.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said that the soldier could face the death penalty under U.S. military law.

With Reuters, AP, and AFP reporting

Source: http://www.rferl.org/content/karzai_afghanistan_massacre/24517850.html

Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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