Afghanistan massacre: Hamid Karzai chides US on probe

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has accused the US of not fully co-operating with a probe into the massacre of 16 civilians by an American serviceman.

The accused soldier is on his way to the US where he is likely to face a military tribunal. US officials named him as Staff Sergeant Robert Bales.

Afghan MPs had demanded the soldier be tried in public in Afghanistan.

Mr Karzai earlier met relatives of the dead, who demanded justice.

Men, women and children were shot and killed at close range as the soldier apparently went on a rampage in villages close to a Nato base in the remote Panjwai district of southern Kandahar province.

President Karzai told reporters that the chief of the official investigation into those killings had not received the co-operation expected from the US.

He also said the problem of civilian casualties at the hands of Nato forces had "gone on for too long"

"This form of activity, this behaviour cannot be tolerated. It's past, past, past the time," Mr Karzai told the BBC's Lyse Doucet at the presidential palace in Kabul.

On Wednesday, Mr Karzai told the US that it must pull back its troops from village areas and allow Afghan security forces to take the lead, in an effort to reduce such civilian deaths.

The Taliban also called off peace talks in the wake of the killings although they made no mention of the massacre in their statement.

Relatives' anguish

Earlier, the president had an emotional session with relatives of those who had been killed last Sunday. The assembled villagers berated him and urged him to seek justice.

Mr Karzai said their account was entirely different from what he called the "supposed US version" that only one American soldier was involved in the massacre.

"In [one] family, in four rooms people were killed, children and women were killed and then they were all brought together in one room and then put on fire. That one man cannot do," he said, reporting the concerns of the villagers.

The allegation that there was more than one gunman contradicts the official US version of events. But Mr Karzai assured villagers that he would pursue that line of inquiry.

"Why did this happen?" demanded the man who lost nine members of his family. "Do you have answers, Mr President?"

"No, I do not," responded a tired-looking Mr Karzai.

Our correspondent, Lyse Doucet, says the president's strong public condemnation of his most important ally is certain to frustrate the US. Washington has been trying to limit the damage from these latest incidents, she says, as they deal with an unpredictable president.

This intervention adds new strains to an already troubled partnership, our correspondent says.

Some details about the alleged killer also emerged from a lawyer who said he represented him.

John Henry Browne said the soldier had received body and brain injuries while serving in Iraq and had been unhappy about doing another tour of duty.

Speaking in Seattle, where Staff Sergeant Bales is based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Mr Browne denied reports that he had problems either with alcohol or his marriage. He had not been publicly named at the time of the press conference.

Earlier on Friday, a Nato helicopter carrying Turkish troops crashed into a house on the outskirts of the capital Kabul, killing at least 12 soldiers and two children on the ground.

The death toll is the heaviest single loss of life so far for Turkish troops in Afghanistan, of whom there are currently more than 1,800.

Police told the BBC a technical fault was to blame.

Despite the recent string of setbacks, such as the suspension of peace talks by the Taliban, the US has stressed that it remains committed to Afghan reconciliation.