Afghans Killed in Rampage by U.S. Soldier
Afghans killed in rampage by US soldier
Sixteen civilians including women and children shot dead in their homes as President Karzai demands an explanation.
11 March 2012 - Al Jazeera
Sixteen Afghan civilians including three women and nine children have been shot dead in their homes by a rogue US soldier in a pre-dawn rampage.
President Hamid Karzai condemned the slaughter on Sunday as "unforgivable" and furiously demanded an explanation from Washington.
"When Afghan people are killed deliberately by US forces this action is murder and terror and an unforgivable action," Karzai said in statement.
Al Jazeera's Bernard Smith, reporting from Herat, said the soldier entered three houses near the base and opened fire on civilians.
Senior US officials were scrambling to determine what caused the soldier to go on a shooting spree after leaving his base in southern Afghanistan, apparently heavily-armed and carrying night-vision equipment.
Officials confirmed that the soldier was being detained in Kandahar and that the military was treating at least five wounded.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama said on Sunday that he was "deeply saddened" by the incident and emphasized that it did not reflect US respect for the Afghan people.
"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," Obama said in a statement.
One US official said the soldier, an Army staff sergeant, was believed to have acted alone and that initial reports indicated he returned to the base after the shooting and turned himself in.
General John Allen, the top US commander in Afghanistan, issued a statement pledging a "rapid and thorough investigation" into the shooting spree, and said the soldier will remain in US custody.
The US embassy in Kabul sent out an alert to its citizens in Afghanistan warning that as a result of the shooting "there is a risk of anti-American feelings and protests in coming days".
An AFP news agency reporter at the scene of the killings counted the bodies of 16 people. In one house, an elderly woman screamed: "May God kill the only son of Karzai, so he feels what we feel."
The shootings come at a particularly sensitive and critical time for the US, just as violence over the burning of Muslim holy books at a US base was starting to calm down. At least 41 people were killed in the violence.
"We are now being told by the police sources that the US soldier left his base at three o clock this morning. It would have been pitch-black wherever he walked," he said.
"The soldier went through three separate houses, shooting at people as they slept in their beds. After the soldier shot these people, he turned himself in."
"It is frankly disastrous. It is not just a disaster for the people who were murdered and killed in their houses, it is disaster for the country I suspect," our correspondent said.
Najeeb Azizi, a Kabul-based Afghan analyst, said the shooting will have deep repercussions on the already tenuous relations with the US.
“It is a very tragic incident in particular because the Afghan and US governments are trying to sign a strategic agreement for a long term," he said.
"A very bad message the Afghan people are getting - that if US military remains in Afghanistan beyond 2014 and their attitude and behaviour remains the same - of killing innocent civilians - what will be the consequences, and how will the Afghan people respond to it."