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Afghan Lawmakers Call For Soldier's Trial


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Melissa Block. Afghans and Americans are still trying to establish facts and come to terms with what happened in the province of Kandahar over the weekend. Four men, three women and nine children were shot to death at close range. Some of their bodies were burned.

CORNISH: Americans have a U.S. Army sergeant in custody, and they're trying to understand what his motive might have been. Not much is known yet about him publically, but it has emerged that he was treated for a traumatic brain injury in 2010. He comes out of the military's joint base, Lewis-McChord, in Washington State. He served multiple tours in Iraq, and this is his first assignment in Afghanistan. Afghan politicians are demanding that he be tried in Afghanistan, but overall, reaction there has been muted. NPR's Quil Lawrence tells us more from Kabul.

QUIL LAWRENCE, BYLINE: Despite fears of violent demonstrations across the country today, few disturbances were reported, even in the district of Panjwai, where the killings took place. Sardar Mohammad Nazari, Panjwai district police chief, said villagers came from miles around to express their condolences as the last of the bodies wrapped in white burial shrouds were laid to rest.

SARDAR MOHAMMAD NAZARI: (Foreign language spoken)

LAWRENCE: The local people who showed up yesterday were very emotional, said the police chief. Today, he said they came peacefully to the mosques and performed the funeral processions in the villages where the shootings took place. Rumors persist that there may have been other soldiers involved, but so far, NATO officials say they have only one suspect in custody, a 38-year-old Army sergeant who was attached to, but not a member of, the U.S. Special Forces in Zangabat village.

The area had been a Taliban stronghold until a year ago, when the American troop surge forced the insurgents out after fierce fighting. Commentators in the Afghan media mixed anger with caution, some openly warning that violence might lead the American Army to leave too soon, before Afghan security forces are ready to handle threats from inside or outside the country. The loudest protest came from the Afghan parliament, which suspended its session after demanding the shooter be handed over to Afghan justice for trial.

General Carsten Jacobson - a spokesman for ISAF, the NATO assistance force here - said that the technical agreement governing foreign troops in Afghanistan puts the soldier under U.S. military jurisdiction.

GENERAL CARSTEN JACOBSON: We were shocked and saddened to hear about the shooting incident yesterday in Kandahar province. ISAF offers its profound regrets and deepest condolences to the victims and their families. We pledge to all the noble people of Afghanistan, our commitment to a rapid and thorough investigation.

LAWRENCE: Not so rapid will be the rebuilding of trust between the American military and the Afghan people, already shattered from an incident last month when U.S. soldiers accidently burned copies of the Koran. With tempers just cooling from the violent riots and attacks on American soldiers after that debacle, Afghans and Americans must now come to terms with what appears to be the worst American war crime in more than 10 years of occupation. Quil Lawrence, NPR News, Kabul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Quil Lawrence is a New York-based correspondent for NPR News, covering veterans' issues nationwide. He won a Robert F. Kennedy Award for his coverage of American veterans and a Gracie Award for coverage of female combat veterans. In 2019 Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America honored Quil with its IAVA Salutes Award for Leadership in Journalism.