Photo: AP Photo/Allauddin Khan
Details of an awful story are unfolding in Afghanistan, where 15 or 16 innocent Afghan civilians have apparently been killed by a US soldier (or perhaps a group) going on a shooting rampage.Needless to say, if this story is what it appears to be, it’s a major human tragedy, with potentially big ramifications for the ongoing US presence in the country.
According to Reuters, officials say that a US soldier went on a shooting rampage in the Panjway district of Kandahar, opening fire, and killing 16 civilians.
Minister of Border and Tribal Affairs Asadullah Khalid, who is investigating the incident, said the soldier entered three homes, killing 11 people in the first one.
Other Afghan officials said at least seven people died.
The incident came just weeks after U.S. soldiers burned copies of large numbers of Korans at a NATO base, triggering widespread anti-Western protests, and plunging already strained ties between Kabul and Washington to a new low.
The AP has a more first-hand sounding account and confirmation from NATO:
An Associated Press photographer reported seeing 15 bodies of Afghans allegedly killed in the shooting. The photographer saw the bodies — some of them burned and some covered with blankets — in the villages of Alkozai and Balandi in Kandahar province’s Panjwai district. The villages are about 500 yards from a U.S. base.
NATO forces have detained the U.S. service member who is accused of going on a shooting spree in the villages. A NATO spokesman has confirmed multiple people wounded but has not confirmed any deaths.
Meanwhile, this other Reuters story cites witnesses saying it was “Western forces” that killed 15 civilians, and that a “group” of US soldiers entered houses at 2 AM. This is at odds with other reports that indicate it’s just one individual.
And here is a released statement from the International Security Assistance Force:
WASHINGTON (March 11, 2012) – The Commander of the International Security Assistance Force, Gen. John R. Allen, released the following statement today:
“I was shocked and saddened to hear of the shooting incident today in Kandahar Province. I offer my profound regret and deepest condolences to the victims and their families. I pledge to all the noble people of Afghanistan my commitment to a rapid and thorough investigation.
In the meantime, we will continue to offer medical care for those who were injured in this shooting. We will maintain custody of the U.S. service member alleged to have perpetrated this attack. And we will cooperate fully with local Afghan authorities as we ascertain all the facts.
This deeply appalling incident in no way represents the values of ISAF and coalition troops or the abiding respect we feel for the Afghan people. Nor does it impugn or diminish the spirit of cooperation and partnership we have worked so hard to foster with the Afghan National Security Forces.
The men and women of ISAF join me in my sadness and they join me in extending their condolences.
I am absolutely dedicated to making sure that anyone who is found to have committed wrong-doing is held fully accountable.”
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