Source: Morning Star
by Ben Chacko
Afghan President Hamid Karzai today backed claims that more than one person had conducted the massacre of 16 civilians which US forces have blamed on a single soldier.
At a meeting with relatives of the nine children, four men and three women who were slain Mr Karzai said villagers’ accounts of the atrocity were “widely different from the scenario depicted by US military officials.
The president pointed to a villager at the meeting and said: “In his family people were killed in four rooms and then they were brought together in one room and set on fire. That one man cannot do.”
He also blasted the US for refusing to share information from its investigation into the outrage, which was conducted in two separate villages.
A government delegation sent to Kandahar to investigate had “not received the expected co-operation of the United States,” he said, adding that he would raise the issue with the occupying army “very loudly.”
Back at the presidential palace in Kabul Mr Karzai said the ever-escalating civilian death toll by Nato occupiers was intolerable and repeated calls made a day earlier for total withdrawal from rural areas.
“This has been going on for too long,” he said. “You have heard me before. It is the end of the rope here. This form of activity, this behaviour cannot be tolerated. It is past, past, past the time.”
The United Nations has found that 2011 was the bloodiest year yet in Afghanistan, with over 3,000 civilian deaths.
The president said he had received a phone call from his US counterpart Barack Obama asking if he meant what he said about withdrawing from the countryside and that he had replied: “Yes, I announced this.”
But the US military said it did not believe he meant it should withdraw from such areas immediately and refused to comment on his criticism of its investigation into the Kandahar massacre. Mr Karzai has limited leverage with the occupying powers who enthroned him in 2004 and who gauge that his government has little chance of remaining in office once they are gone.
A Turkish military helicopter crashed into a house near Kabul yesterday, killing 12 soldiers on board and two children who were in the building.