Shocked Obama pledges holding soldier accountable
WASHINGTON (PAN): US president Barack Obama on Sunday phoned his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai to express his shock over the killing of 16 civilians in Kandahar by an American soldier, pledging to hold the accused accountable, the White House said.
Sixteen civilians, including women and children, were killed by American soldiers in Zangabad area of Panjwae district on Sunday morning, and 11 of the bodies were burnt, according to Afghanistan officials.
“President Obama extended his condolences to the people of Afghanistan, and made clear his Administration's commitment to establish the facts as quickly as possible and to hold fully accountable anyone responsible,” the White House said in a statement.
Obama called Karzai to express his shock and sadness at the reported killing and wounding of Afghan civilians. “The President reaffirmed our deep respect for the Afghan people and the bonds between our two countries,” it said.
Earlier in a statement, Obama said the soldier involved in the killing did not represent the American values. “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, after he was briefed on the incident by his officials.
“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,” Obama said.
He fully supported Secretary Panetta’s and General Allen’s commitment to get the facts as quickly as possible and to hold accountable anyone responsible.
Earlier, Panetta, during a telephonic conversation with Karzai, pledged to bring those responsible for the horrific incident to justice. “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,” he said.
Panetta offered Karzai his deepest condolences and profound regret over the tragic incident that resulted in the loss of life and injuries to innocent Afghan civilians. “A full investigation is already under way”, he added.
Shocked and saddened that a US soldier is alleged involved, clearly acting outside his chain of command, Panetta said he told Karzai that the American people share the outrage felt by him and Afghans. “This tragic incident does not reflect the commitment of the US military to protect the Afghan people and help build a strong and stable Afghanistan,” he said.
“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,” he said.
“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 forge a more peaceful future for the citizens of both our nations,” Panetta said.
General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, his spokesman said, was alerted by phone early Sunday morning and has been receiving regular updates. He has been in contact with the ISAF Commander and is confident that Gen John Allen and his staff are taking the appropriate steps to thoroughly investigate the circumstances of the incident.
Gen Dempsey is also trying to set up a phone call with his counterpart, Gen Karimi, when he is available, the Pentagon official said.
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