Afghanistan's Karzai slams United States over massacre

Fri Mar 16, 2012 2:31pm EDT
 
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By Mirwais Harooni and Rob Taylor

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Friday lashed out at the United States for failing to fully cooperate with an investigation into the massacre of 16 Afghan villagers by a U.S. staff sergeant and questioned whether only one soldier could have been involved.

A series of blunders by the United States, including the killings in Kandahar province on Sunday and the inadvertent burning of copies of the Koran at a NATO base last month, has further strained already tense relations between the countries.

"This has been going on for too long. You have heard me before. It is by all means the end of the rope here," Karzai told reporters at the heavily fortified presidential palace.

Flanked by senior officials, a tired and sometimes angry Karzai listened to village elders and the families of victims of the massacre, and dressed somberly in black for the start of an expected two days of talks to discuss the killings.

Some at the meeting shouted, some demanded answers, but all said they wanted any soldiers involved punished.

"I don't want any compensation. I don't want money, I don't want a trip to Mecca, I don't want a house. I want nothing. But what I absolutely want is the punishment of the Americans. This is my demand, my demand, my demand and my demand," said one villager, whose brother was killed in the nighttime slaughter.

Furious Afghans and lawmakers have demanded that the soldier responsible be tried in Afghanistan, but despite those calls, the U.S. staff sergeant was flown out on Wednesday.

"The army chief has just reported that the Afghan investigation team did not receive the cooperation that they expected from the United States. Therefore these are all questions that we'll be raising, and raising very loudly, and raising very clearly," Karzai said.   Continued...

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai speaks during a meeting with the family members of civilians killed by U.S. soldier in Kandahar last week at the presidential palace in Kabul March, 16, 2012.REUTERS/Omar Sobhani