Kabul – A shooting spree in Afghanistan that left 16 civilians dead a week ago was the work of a team of US soldiers, not an individual as has been reported, a member of the Afghan parliamentary investigative team said yesterday.
“After our investigations, we came to know that the killings were not carried out by one single soldier. More than a dozen soldiers went, killed the villagers and then burnt the bodies,” lawmaker Naheem Lalai Hameedzai claimed.
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But that account conflicts with statements from US officials, as well as with separate testimony from some people present during the attacks.
Hameedzai said the results of the probe by lawmakers has been presented to the legislature.
He also said the Afghan parliament had urged President Hamid Karzai to change the legal status of foreign soldiers deployed in the war-torn country.
The US has said one soldier carried out the dawn attack on a village in Panjwai district in Kandahar province. That soldier – identified as Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, 38 – is now in US military custody.
“All the villagers that we talked to said there were 15 to 20 men (who) had conducted a night raid operation in several areas in the village,” said Hameedzai.
“One house where the incident took place is located in a village north of the base. The other two are in another village in the south of the base. There is at least 4kms between the base and the houses.”
Hameedzai also said some of the Afghan women who were killed were sexually assaulted, according to the findings.
“According to eyewitnesses, they could not confirm the rape. But the women’s clothes were torn,” he said.
However, Kandahar governor’s media office said local elders refuted the claim, saying the lawmaker was “lying for political gains.”
Meanwhile, the parliament in Kabul urged Karzai to revoke an agreement that protects foreign troops in the country from facing legal proceedings in Afghanistan.
“During our investigations, the Americans themselves told us that, because Afghanistan signed the military agreement, US soldiers could not be tried inside the country,” parliamentarian Naheem Lalai Hameedzai said.
“We have passed a resolution unanimously to dissolve the military contract, and we have sent the resolution to President Karzai. He has not signed on it yet,” Hameedzai said.
“After the Panjwai incident, we have decided that we do not need any such contracts any more,” he said.