By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON – The military today airlifted out of Afghanistan the U.S. soldier accused of going on a shooting rampage targeting Afghan civilians earlier this week, a Pentagon spokesman said.
Navy Capt. John Kirby, in an interview with Fox News at the Pentagon, confirmed that the soldier was flown out of Afghanistan. He declined to say where he is being held.
The soldier, whom the military has yet to identify, was taken out of Afghanistan because there was no appropriate place to detain him there, Kirby said.
“This is in accordance with our own regulations and policies to have him in a proper detention facility and to continue to be interviewed and cared for appropriately,” he said. “So we’ve moved him to an appropriate detention facility outside the country.”
Kirby agreed with a reporter’s assessment that Afghans are “understandably livid” about the soldier being taken out of Afghanistan, but he said U.S. military officials have been in close contact with Afghan officials.
“We have kept Afghan authorities, all the way up to President [Hamid] Karzai, informed of this transfer,” he said. “They know we’re doing this, and they know why we’re doing this.”
Army officials have identified the suspect only as a noncommissioned officer. He is accused of leaving his base in Kandahar province in the middle of the night March 11 and shooting Afghans in their homes nearby. Afghan officials say 17 were killed.
It is Defense Department policy to release a suspect’s name after charges have been levied against him. That has not yet occurred, Kirby said.
Because of the “heinous nature of the crimes, and the scope and magnitude of the devastation,” the captain said, military officials don’t want to rush investigators.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has told Karzai the investigation will be done rapidly, Kirby said. “But more important,” he added, “it will be done thoroughly.”