Taliban Vows Revenge for Killing of 16 Afghan Civilians
VOA News March 12, 2012
The Taliban has vowed to seek revenge against what it called "American savages" after a U.S. Army sergeant went on an apparent shooting spree in southern Afghanistan, killing 16 Afghan villagers, many of them children.
U.S. and Afghan officials say the U.S. soldier walked off his base and attacked homes in the Panjwai district of Kandahar province early Sunday, shooting and killing civilians. Villagers say he set some of the bodies on fire.
U.S.-forces stepped up security a day later, as the American embassy warned U.S. citizens in Afghanistan of the possibility of reprisals. The Taliban said Monday it would avenge the death of every Afghan who was killed.
The Afghan parliament condemned the killings, urging the U.S. government to punish the culprits and put them on trial in a public court. Afghan lawmakers said Monday they have "run out of patience" with the lack of oversight of foreign solders.
The killings were the latest in a series of actions by international troops that have provoked outrage in Afghanistan. Last month, nearly 40 people were killed in deadly protests against the burning of Qurans at a U.S. airbase.
ISAF spokesman Brigadier General Carsten Jacobsen said Monday the recent incidents are of grave concern.
"From ISAF's point of view, of course, these incidents and in particular, the short distance between the incidents that we have seen in the recent weeks, are a burden and are of concern for ISAF,'' Jacobsen said.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has demanded an explanation for attack, in which nine children and three women were killed. He said the act was "an intentional killing of innocent civilians that cannot be forgiven."
U.S. President Barack Obama called the Afghan leader Sunday to extend his condolences to the Afghan people. He also issued a statement, saying the "tragic and shocking" incident "does not represent the exceptional character of our military and the respect that the United States has for the people of Afghanistan." Mr. Obama said he stands behind Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's call for a quick investigation and his commitment to hold accountable anyone responsible.
NATO officials say the suspect, identified as a U.S. Army staff sergeant from a unit based in Washington state, turned himself in following the early morning shooting rampage in Kandahar. Many witnesses have said there were several attackers, but U.S. officials say the soldier acted alone and then surrendered.
U.S. military officials said the detained sergeant was married with children. They said he had served three tours in Iraq but was on his first Afghan deployment.
Sunday's shooting in southern Afghanistan is likely to further fray Afghan-U.S. ties, just as U.S. and Afghan officials try to make progress on a strategic agreement outlining the U.S. role in Afghanistan after all American combat troops leave the country in 2014.
A day after the killings, German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a previously unannounced trip to visit German soldiers serving with the NATO-led security force. She arrived in the city Mazar-e-Sharif on Monday and telephoned President Karzai to express her "deepest condolences" for the incident.
Germany is the third largest contributor of troops the NATO force in Afghanistan, with some 5,000 soldiers in the country.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.
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