Afghans protest civilian killings blamed on US soldier
Hundreds of Afghans gathered in a southern city Thursday to protest the killings of civilians allegedly at the hands of a US soldier, officials said.
"The protestors are shouting anti-American slogans," said Hekmatullah Kochi, spokesman for the 404 Police Corps, a regional Afghan police headquarters. "They say they want the Americans to leave the country."
The protest took place in Qalat, the capital of Zabul province. It borders volatile Kandahar province, where a US soldier allegedly went door to door Sunday, killing 16 Afghans, mostly women and children, while they slept, DPA reported.
The protest was peaceful and security forces were deployed to ensure order, Kochi said.
Afghans have expressed anger over the killings and have demanded a public trial in an Afghan court of the US soldier, but the unidentified suspect was flown out of the country Wednesday, the Pentagon said.
The soldier has been in US military custody since surrendering on his return to his base in Kandahar after the rampage. CNN cited an unnamed defence official as saying he had been flown to Kuwait.
The Afghan parliament said patience with the foreign troops in the country has run out.
US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta was on a two-day visit to Afghanistan to try to contain the fallout. He was scheduled to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai Thursday, officials said.