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Afghan fury as US suspect flies out

Afghan politicians have expressed their anger after the US flew an American soldier accused of killing 16 civilians out of the country to Kuwait.

They said Kabul should not sign a strategic partnership agreement with Washington unless the suspect faces justice in Afghanistan.

Negotiations over the agreement, which would govern the presence of US 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 Americans flew the soldier out of the country on Wednesday evening, though the US military said the transfer did not preclude the possibility of trying the case in Afghanistan.

But that did not appease Afghans who were upset at the move. Mohammad Naeem Lalai Hamidzai, a Kandahar politician who is part of a parliamentary commission investigating the shootings, said: "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."

The US informed Afghan leaders that the soldier was going to be moved and "they understood", said US lieutenant general Curtis Scaparotti, deputy commander of American forces in Afghanistan.

Moving the suspect will allow the US to provide pre-trial confinement, access to legal representation and the ability to ensure fair and proper judicial proceedings, he said. The Pentagon has said the US does not have appropriate detention facilities in Afghanistan.

In Kuwait, US army spokesman lieutenant colonel David Patterson said that the detention unit there, known as a theatre field confinement facility, holds pre-trial detainees and post-trial confinees for a limited time.

Abdul Khaliq Balakarzai, another Kandahar politician, said President Hamid Karzai should respond to the US decision to move the soldier by refusing to sign the strategic partnership agreement. He added: "If the trial was in Afghanistan, the people would see that America doesn't like this soldier and wants to punish him. But unfortunately America ignored our demand."

Haji Abdul Ghani, a tribal elder from the area of Panjwai district where the shooting spree occurred, warned that the US move would cause "people to rise up and increase the hostility between Afghanistan and America".

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