Obama, Panetta condemn rampage that killed 16 Afghan civilians

President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta apologized to President Hamid Karzai yesterday for the killing of 16 Afghan civilians by an American soldier in Kandahar province.

“I condemn such violence and am shocked and saddened that a U.S. service member is alleged to be involved, clearly acting outside his chain of command,” said Panetta. “This tragic incident does not reflect the commitment of the U.S. military to protect the Afghan people and help build a strong and stable Afghanistan.” 

The shooting rampage took place in the Panjwaj district in southern Afghanistan. NATO and Afghan officials reported that a U.S. soldier left his base early Sunday morning and went door-to-door at a nearby village, shooting people as they slept. According to Afghan officials, 16 people – including 9 women and 3 children – were killed and 5 were wounded in the attack.

“This is an assassination, an intentional killing of innocent civilians and cannot be forgiven,” Karzai said in a statement.

President Obama called the unprovoked shooting “tragic and shocking” and promised Karzai that the U.S. will conduct a swift investigation into incident.

The unidentified suspect has been taken into custody by International Security Assistance Force pending an investigation.

The shooting is the latest in a string of high profile incidents that have strained U.S.-Afghanistan relations, fueled anti-American sentiment, and escalated violence against U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. In February, ISAF personnel allegedly burned Korans at the Parwan Detention Facility at Bagram Airbase. The Koran burning sparked protests that has killed at least  at least 30 Afghans and 6 U.S. service members. In January, a videotape of 4 U.S. Marines urinating on enemy corpses in Afghanistan was circulated online, prompting public outrage.


Statement by ISAF spokesman Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson on Kandahar shooting (March 11, 2012): 

“Well, obviously we’ve been very, very saddened by what we have heard and the information that broke in the early hours of this morning. And very quickly, Gen. [John] Allen, who’s traveling at the moment, and also the Deputy Commander Gen. [Adrian] Bradshaw expressed their deep regrets and their sorry in particular for the members of the families of those who perished. So it was a shock the news that we heard this morning. And we are still looking into the incident to see the entire magnitude.

“What we know is that a U.S. soldier left his forward-operating base in the night hours from Saturday to Sunday, went into the nearby villages, and opened fire on civilians in those villages. We still haven’t got confirmed numbers of people who were killed and those who were wounded.

“We have wounded that are in care of ISAF personnel at this very moment.

“The shooter gave himself up and surrendered to his base and is in custody now.

“Well, when the news broke this morning, it was not only deep sadness, it was the immediate question into the why and what were the circumstances that led to this very tragic incident. At the moment, as it stands right now, it looks very much like an individual act.

“Now, we have to look into the shooting incident. We have to look into the background behind it. We have to find out what motivated the perpetrator. This, of course, is a legal case. He is a U.S. soldier and we’ll forward to the United States authorities to investigate into this case. But obviously, ISAF is doing what is possible at the moment to deal with the consequences.

“I am not linking this incident to the incidents that happened recently. Of course, it is a very tragic event. It looks like the act of an individual. We have to find out what the background behind it is. We’ve got to look into the case in detail. This looks like something that has to be carefully investigated and draw the legal consequences out of it, and I’m not linking it to the incidents that we’ve seen over the recent days and weeks.”

Statement by the Embassy of Afghanistan on the tragedy in Kandahar (March 11, 2012):

“We are shocked and deeply saddened by the killing of 16 civilians, including 9 children and 3 women and the wounding of five other civilians in a tragic attack by a member of the U.S. Armed Forces that took place in Panjwai District of Kandahar Province this morning.

“The Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, DC strongly condemns this inhumane act of violence against innocent people, expresses its deepest condolences to the families of the victims and wishes a speedy recovery to those wounded in this incident.

“The incident is currently under investigation by two delegations assigned by President Karzai and they will report back to the President as soon as possible. The individual or individuals responsible for this act shall be identified and brought to justice.

Statement by President Obama on civilian deaths in Afghanistan (March 11, 2012): 

“I am deeply saddened by the reported killing and wounding of Afghan civilians. I offer my condolences to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives, and to the people of Afghanistan, who have endured too much violence and suffering. This incident is tragic and shocking, and does not represent the exceptional character of our military and the respect that the United States has for the people of Afghanistan. I fully support Secretary Panetta’s and General Allen’s commitment to get the facts as quickly as possible and to hold accountable anyone responsible.”

Statement by Defense Secretary Panetta on the tragic incident in Kandahar (March 11, 2012): 

“Today I spoke to President Karzai to offer my deepest condolences and profound regret for the tragic incident in Kandahar province that resulted in the loss of life and injuries to innocent Afghan civilians, including women and children.

“A full investigation is already underway. A suspect is in custody, and I gave President Karzai my assurances that we will bring those responsible to justice.  We will spare no effort in getting the facts as quickly as possible, and we will hold any perpetrator who is responsible for this violence fully accountable under the law.

“I condemn such violence and am shocked and saddened that a U.S. service member is alleged to be involved, clearly acting outside his chain of command.  I told President Karzai that the American people share the outrage felt by President Karzai and his fellow citizens.  This tragic incident does not reflect the commitment of the U.S. military to protect the Afghan people and help build a strong and stable Afghanistan.

“As we mourn today with the Afghan people, we are steadfast in our resolve to work hand in hand with our Afghan partners to accomplish the missions and goals on which we have been working together for so long.  This terrible incident does not reflect our shared values or the progress we have made together.  As I told President Karzai, I am fully committed to ensuring that our cooperation continues.  It is essential to forging a more peaceful future for the citizens of both our nations.”


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