Relatives of Afghans killed in a shooting massacre demanded Friday a public trial in Afghanistan for a US soldier expected to be formally charged with 17 counts of murder.
US officials have said that Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, 38, will also be accused of six counts of assault and attempted murder.
He is said to have walked out of his base in the southern province of Kandahar earlier this month and mounted a massacre in two nearby villages, with many of his victims women and children.
The soldier is said to have burnt some of their bodies before returning to his base to surrender.
A senior US official in Kabul said Friday: “I think it’s pretty much been decided the case is going to be in the States.”
But the killings have put further strains on the already difficult relationship between Kabul and Washington, and relatives of the dead in Panjwai district insisted that Bales should go on trial in Afghanistan.
Haji Samad, an elder who lost 11 members of his extended family, said: “We want the prosecution of this American soldier in Afghanistan not in the US, because he committed the crime in Afghanistan.
“Why he is going to be prosecuted in the US? If this man is prosecuted in Afghanistan, we will be relieved. If he is prosecuted in the US, we will be angry and it will remain a pain in our hearts.”
Haji Noor Mohammad, who lost his grandfather, grandmother, a sister and a cousin, told AFP: “I want the prosecution of this US soldier in Afghanistan.”
Bales’ lawyer John Henry Browne has told reporters that his client — who suffered a brain injury in a road accident in Iraq — has no memory of the event and he could pursue a “diminished capacity” defence.
But Mohammad said: “If he is truly crazy and lost his memory then why is he appointed as a US soldier? Why is he not admitted to the hospital instead?”
The Taliban, who have waged a decade-long insurgency since they were toppled after the September 11, 2001 attacks, said they had no confidence in any US judicial proceedings against Bales.
“We have no faith in any trial for the US soldier,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP, threatening to speed up attacks on US forces in revenge for the deaths.
“The shooting was not committed by an individual US soldier, many soldiers were involved in the killings,” he claimed, calling the trial “an attempt to fool the people of Afghanistan”.
Sixteen people were initially reported killed in the shootings. Spokesmen for the NATO-led international forces in Kabul said they could not yet give details of the 17th death.