US Soldier Kills 16 Afghan Civilians, Including 9 Children, in Cold-Blooded Panjwai Slaughter Spree
UPDATE: The suspected gunman has been identified as US Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales.
A US soldier opened fire on Afghan villagers near his base, killing 16 innocent civilians including nine children and three women in a cold-blooded slaughter spree that has sparked intense outrage among the people of the war-torn country.
The Associated Press reports that the unnamed Army staff sergeant, who has been detained, attacked families in two villages in Panjwai, near Kandahar, beginning around 3am Sunday morning. A total of 16 people were killed in Alkozai and Balandi, including many women and children. Balandi farmer Samad Khan lost all 11 members of his family, as well as a neighbor.
“This is an anti-human and anti-Islamic act,” Khan told the AP. “Nobody is allowed in any religion in the world to kill children and women.”
The four people killed in Alkozai were also from one family, according to a local woman who refused to give her name.
“No Taliban were here. No gunbattle was going on,” she told the AP. “We don’t know why this foreign soldier came and killed our innocent family members. Either he was drunk or he was enjoying killing civilians.”
Afghan President Hamid Karzai called the killings an “assassination” and demanded an explanation from Washington.
“This is an assassination, an intentional killing of innocent civilians and cannot be forgiven,” Karzai said in a statement, reiterating his oft-heard but seldom heeded demand that NATO forces stop killing innocent civilians.
President Barack Obama called the killings “tragic and shocking” and offered his condolences to the victims’ families.
“I am deeply saddened by the reported killing and wounding of Afghan civilians,” he said. “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.”
NATO officials also issued a statement.
“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,” Gen. John Allen said in a statement, promising a “rapid and thorough investigation” and that “anyone who is found to have committed wrongdoing is held fully accountable.”
But the U.S. track record in holding war criminals accountable is abysmal. For example, Sgt. Frank Wuterich, a Marine who led a squad that slaughtered 24 innocent Iraqi civilians in Haditha, Iraq in 2005, reached a plea deal that allowed him to avoid prison for the atrocity. Of the seven other Marines charged in the Haditha killings, charges were dropped against six and one was acquitted.
The Taliban have seized upon the atrocity by a rogue soldier to slam the American-led war in Afghanistan.
“The so-called American peace keepers have once again quenched their thirst with the blood of innocent Afghan civilians in Kandahar province,” the Taliban said in a statement.
This isn’t the first time that U.S. forces have committed war crimes in the area. An Army “kill team” that murdered innocent Afghans for sport operated in the area, with some soldiers keeping body parts as trophies and posing for photos by their victims. In January, a video appeared that showed U.S. Marines urinating on the bodies of dead resistance fighters. And just last month, U.S. troops burned qurans, the Muslim holy book, sparking widespread violence that claimed 30 lives.
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