The American soldier accused of shooting 16 Afghan villagers in a pre-dawn killing spree was flown out of Afghanistan on Wednesday evening, the U.S. military said.
The soldier was taken out of Afghanistan "based on a legal recommendation," said Navy Capt. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman.
"We do not have appropriate detention facilities in Afghanistan," he said, explaining that he was referring to a facility for a U.S. service member "in this kind of case."
The soldier was taken aboard a U.S. military aircraft to a "pretrial confinement facility" in another country, a U.S. military official said, without saying where. The official, who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to release the information publicly, would not confirm if that meant an American military base or another type of facility.
Kirby said the move did not necessarily mean the trial would be held outside Afghanistan, but the other military official said legal proceedings would continue elsewhere. The soldier has not yet been charged.
Afghan lawmakers had demanded that the soldier be publicly tried in Afghanistan to show that he was being brought to justice, calling on President Hamid Karzai to suspend all talks with the U.S. about an long-term military presence here until that happens.
Many fear a misstep by the U.S. military in handling the case could ignite a firestorm in Afghanistan that would shatter already tense relations.
The alliance between Afghanistan and the U.S. military already appeared near the breaking point last month when the burning of Qurans in a garbage pit at a U.S. base sparked protests and retaliatory attacks that killed more than 30 people, including six U.S. soldiers.
In recent days the two countries made headway toward an agreement governing a long-term American presence in the country, but the shootings in Kandahar province on Sunday have called all such negotiations into question.
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