Karzai de­nounces ‘as­sas­si­na­tion’ of civil­ians

De­mands apol­ogy af­ter U.S. sol­dier re­port­edly killed 16 Afghan vil­lagers

The Washington Times Daily - - World - BY MIR­WAIS KHAN AND

BA­LANDI, AFGHANISTAN | A U.S sol­dier opened fire on vil­lagers near his base in south­ern Afghanistan on Sun­day and killed 16 civil­ians, ac­cord­ing to Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai, who called it an “as­sas­si­na­tion” and fu­ri­ously de­manded an ex­pla­na­tion from Washington.

Nine chil­dren and three women were among the dead.

The killing spree deep­ened a cri­sis be­tween U.S. forces and their Afghan hosts over Amer­i­cans burn­ing Mus­lim holy books on a base in Afghanistan.

The Ko­ran burn­ings sparked weeks of vi­o­lent protests and at­tacks that left some 30 peo­ple dead. Six U.S. ser­vice mem­bers have been killed by their Afghan col­leagues since the burn­ings came to light, but the vi­o­lence had just started to calm down.

“This is an as­sas­si­na­tion, an in­ten­tional killing of in­no­cent civil­ians and can­not be for­given,” Mr. Karzai said, adding that he re­peat­edly has de­manded the U.S. stop killing Afghan civil­ians.

The vi­o­lence over the Ko­ran burn­ings spurred calls in the U.S. for a faster exit strat­egy from the 10-yearold Afghan war.

Pres­i­dent Obama even said re­cently that “now is the time for us to tran­si­tion.” But he also said he had no plan to change the cur­rent timetable that has Afghans tak­ing con­trol of se­cu­rity coun­try­wide by the end of 2014.

The ten­sions be­tween the two coun­tries had ap­peared to be eas­ing as re­cently as Fri­day, when the U.S. and Afghan gov­ern­ments signed a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing about the trans­fer of Afghan de­tainees to Afghan con­trol — a key step to­ward an even­tual strate­gic part­ner­ship to gov­ern U.S. forces in the coun­try.

But Sun­day’s shoot­ing could push that agree­ment fur­ther away.

“This is a fa­tal ham­mer blow on the U.S. mil­i­tary mis­sion in Afghanistan. What­ever sliver of trust and cred­i­bil­ity we might have had fol­low­ing the burn­ings of the Ko­ran is now gone,” said David Cor­tright, di­rec­tor of pol­icy stud­ies at Notre Dame’s Kroc In­sti­tute for In­ter­na­tional Peace Stud­ies and an ad­vo­cate for a quick with­drawal from Afghanistan.

“This may have been the act of a lone, de­ranged sol­dier. But the peo­ple of Afghanistan will see it for what it was, a wan­ton mas­sacre of in­no­cent civil­ians.”

Five peo­ple were wounded in the pre-dawn at­tack in Kan­da­har prov­ince, in­clud­ing a 15-year-old boy named Rafi­ul­lah who was shot in the leg and spoke to Mr. Karzai over the tele­phone. He de­scribed how the U.S. sol­dier en­tered his house in the mid­dle of the night, woke up his fam­ily and be­gan shoot­ing them, ac­cord­ing to Mr. Karzai’s state­ment.

NATO of­fi­cials apol­o­gized for the shoot­ings but did not con­firm that any­one was killed, re­fer­ring in­stead to re­ports of deaths.

“I wish to con­vey my pro­found re­grets and dis­may at the ac­tions ap­par­ently taken by one coali­tion mem­ber in Kan­da­har prov­ince,” said a state­ment from Bri­tish army Lt. Gen. Adrian Brad­shaw, the deputy com­man­der of NATO forces in Afghanistan.

“One of our sol­diers is re­ported to have killed and in­jured a num­ber of civil­ians in vil­lages ad­ja­cent to his base. I can­not ex­plain the mo­ti­va­tion be­hind such cal­lous acts, but they were in no way part of au­tho­rized ISAF mil­i­tary ac­tiv­ity,” he said, us­ing the ab­bre­vi­a­tion for NATO’S In­ter­na­tional Se­cu­rity As­sis­tance Force.


Anar Gul (right) sits next to the body of her grand­son, who re­port­edly was killed Sun­day by a U.S. sol­dier in south­ern Afghanistan. The ser­vice mem­ber killed 16 civil­ians, ac­cord­ing to Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai, who fu­ri­ously de­manded an ex­pla­na­tion from Washington.

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