US Soldier Who Allegedly Killed Civilians Flown Out of Afghanistan

Posted March 14th, 2012 at 3:20 pm (UTC-5)
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The U.S. Defense Department says the U.S. soldier who allegedly carried out a deadly shooting spree in Afghanistan has been flown out of the country.

A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Captain John Kirby, would not disclose the destination where the soldier was taken Wednesday. But Kirby said the soldier was flown out for his safety and to make him more accessible to investigators.

The U.S. soldier allegedly murdered 16 civilian villagers outside Kandahar province on Sunday.

Earlier Wednesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said recent violence in Afghanistan — including the attack by the U.S. soldier — will not deter the United States from carrying out its mission in the country.

Pentagon spokesman George Little said Wednesday that Panetta met with Afghan provincial officials while touring Afghanistan. Little said Panetta told the Afghan leaders that such incidents do not represent the Afghan people, Afghan security forces, or U.S. and coalition forces.

Around the same time Panetta arrived in southern Afghanistan, officials said an Afghan stole a vehicle and drove it onto a runway ramp, crashing into a ditch before emerging from the vehicle in flames. The coalition said a NATO service member was injured in a “stolen vehicle incident.” NATO said authorities detained the suspect and that Panetta was never in any danger.

Panetta's visit follows weeks of deadly Afghan protests that erupted after revelations that U.S. soldiers had improperly disposed of Qurans. The dead included coalition soldiers who were killed by their Afghan counterparts. In response, NATO officials said Wednesday they are tightening the screening of Afghan forces to prevent insurgents from infiltrating the army.

Meanwhile, officials say Afghans investigating Sunday's shooting have been shown surveillance video of the accused soldier surrendering at his base. They say the footage was released in an effort to dispel rumors that more than one shooter was involved in the incident.

Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak said Wednesday his government has been assured that U.S. authorities will take “appropriate action,” punishing those responsible to the “maximum extent” possible.

In violence Wednesday, a roadside bomb killed eight civilians in Helmand province. Earlier, in neighboring Kandahar province, a motorcycle bomb killed one Afghan security officer and wounded at least two other people.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the U.S. embassy in Kabul condemned the violence.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the Taliban had vowed to avenge the recent murder of Afghan civilians. On Tuesday, Taliban militants opened fire on a memorial service for the 16 slain villagers in Kandahar, killing an Afghan soldier and wounding a policeman.