(WASHINGTON) — The soldier accused of shooting 16 Afghan villagers this past weekend was flown out of Afghanistan on Wednesday evening to a U.S. detention facility in Kuwait.
Earlier Wednesday Pentagon officials had publicly confirmed that the unidentified soldier had been transferred out of Afghanistan, but refused to identify exactly where because of what one official described as “host nation sensitivities.”
A U.S. official confirms to ABC News that the soldier was flown to Kuwait, where he will be detained at an American detention facility.
The 38-year-old staff sergeant has yet to be charged in the shootings of the villagers that took place after he sneaked off his base in the middle of the night, targeting residents of two villages near his remote base in western Kandahar province.
Officials say the soldier will be identified once military prosecutors file charges. The Army’s Criminal Investigative Command is conducting the investigation into the shooting rampage and will forward their results to the military chain of command. Charges can be filed while the investigation continues.
Afghan political leaders have called for the shooter to be tried publicly in Afghan courts, but U.S. military officials say the case will be handled in U.S. military courts. A U.S. military official says Afghan officials were made aware of the transfer before it occurred.
Whether that trial takes place in Afghanistan or the United States remains to be seen.
Appearing on the Fox News Channel earlier Wednesday, Captain John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said the move was made mainly because “inside Afghanistan we don’t have the proper detention facilities to detain U.S. personnel for any length of time.” He added, “This is in accordance with our own regulations and policies to have him in a proper detention facility where he can continue to be interviewed and to be cared for appropriately. ”
American detention facilities in Kuwait have been used in the past to house American service members involved in high-profile cases. In 2010, PFC Bradley Manning was kept in pre-trial confinement in Kuwait for three months after having been initially detained in Baghdad for allegedly leaking sensitive materials that later appeared on WikiLeaks.
In June 2010, Army Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs was also sent to a detention facility in Kuwait after being detained in Afghanistan for having organized a team of soldiers that killed three Afghan civilians for sport. Gibbs was convicted this past November in the deaths of the civilians.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Andreas Preuss, CNN
Susan Scutti, CNN