US soldier on SEAL team shoots dead nine sleeping Afghan children before burning their bodies in deadly rampage that killed 16

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  • Shooter identified as Army staff sergeant from Fort Lewis, Washington, a married father of three
  • Base regarded as ‘most troubled in the military,’ that housed soldiers involved in Afghan ‘thrill killings’ case in 2010
  • Assigned to support a special operations unit of either Green Berets or Navy SEALs
  • He allegedly went into three homes early this morning and shot dead 16 people after ‘suffering mental breakdown’
  • Nine children and three women among those reported dead
  • Relative said he ‘poured chemicals over their dead bodies and burned them’
  • Afghan President Karzai condemned shootings as ‘assassination’
  • President Obama called attack ‘tragic’ and ‘shocking’
  • Attack could deepen strife and comes weeks after outrage over Koran burning at NATO base left at least 30 dead
  • Afghan Taliban says in email they are likely to retaliate

Sixteen innocent Afghan civilians – including nine children and three women – were shot and killed by a rogue U.S. soldier who opened fire after suffering a ‘mental breakdown’ early this morning.

The Army staff sergeant, who was stationed at a U.S. base in Kandahar, reportedly entered three Afghan family’s homes at about 3am Sunday morning and began the killing spree.

A relative of the deceased added that he then ‘poured chemicals over their dead bodies and burned them.’

The shooter was identified by U.S. officials as an Army staff sergeant from Fort Lewis in Washington state, and was believed to have acted alone.

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Disbelief: Two grief-stricken Afghan men look into the van where the body of a badly burned child lays, wrapped in a blue blanket

Horrific: The bodies of an elderly Afghan man and a child killed in the Alkozai village of Panjwayi district are shown wrapped in blankets

Horrific: The bodies of an elderly Afghan man and a child killed in the Alkozai village of Panjwayi district are shown wrapped in blankets

Station: The shooter was identified by U.S. officials as an Army staff sergeant from Fort Lewis, Washington, which has troubling historyStation: The shooter was identified by U.S. officials as an Army staff sergeant from Fort Lewis, Washington, which has troubling history

Initial reports indicated he returned to the base after the shooting, calmly turned himself in and was taken into custody at a NATO base in Afghanistan.

Afghan president Hamid Karzai condemned the attacks as ‘an assassination’ and furiously demanded an explanation from the U.S.

Little is known about the soldier who committed the atrocities, including his name, but a U.S. official told Reuters that he is married with three children, and served three separate tours in Iraq.

He was assigned to support a special operations unit of either Green Berets or Navy SEALs engaged in a village stability operation.


Such operations are among NATO’s best hopes for transitioning out of Afghanistan, pairing special operations troops with villagers chosen by village elders to become essentially a sanctioned, armed neighborhood watch.

He has reportedly been stationed in Afghanistan since December.

The base is about 45 miles south of Seattle and home to about 100,000 military and civilian personnel. 

A former soldier out of Fort Lewis shot and injured a Salt Lake City police officer in 2010, and on January 1, a 24-year-old Iraq War veteran shot and killed a Mount Rainier National Park ranger.

Watchful eye: Afghan soldiers stand guard outside the houses where 16 civilians were shot dead by a U.S. soldier

Watchful eye: Afghan soldiers stand guard outside the houses where 16 civilians were shot dead by a U.S. soldier

Tragedy: Locals people gather outside the houses where 17 civilians were murdered by a U.S. soldier in a horrific house-to-house killing spree

Tragedy: Locals people gather outside the houses where 17 civilians were murdered by a U.S. soldier in a horrific house-to-house killing spree

Four Lewis-McChord soldiers were convicted in the deliberate thrill killings of three Afghan civilians in 2010.

The military newspaper Stars and Stripes called it ‘the most troubled base in the military’ that year.

The attack will likely deepen strife between Afghanistan and the U.S., as it comes weeks after NATO soldiers burned copies of the Koran – the Muslim holy book – sparking a violent protest that has left some 30 people dead.

Neighbors told Reuters that they had awoken to crackling gunfire from American soldiers, who they described as laughing and drunk.

‘They were all drunk and shooting all over the place,’ said Agha Lala, who visited one of the homes where killings took place. ‘Their [the victims’] bodies were riddled with bullets.’

A senior U.S. defense official in Washington rejected witness accounts that several apparently drunk soldiers were involved.

‘Based on the preliminary information we have this account is flatly wrong,’ the official said. ‘We believe one U.S. service member acted alone, not a group of U.S. soldiers.’

An AP photographer reported that he saw 15 bodies of Afghans – some of them burned and some covered with blankets – in the villages of Alkozai and Balandi in Kandahar province’s Panjwai district.

Tears of grief: An Afghan youth mourns for his relatives, who were allegedly killed by the U.S. service member

Tears of grief: An Afghan youth mourns for his relatives, who were allegedly killed by the U.S. service member

One man told the AFP news agency of his great loss. ‘Eleven members of my family are dead. They are all dead,’ Haji Samad said.

‘They [Americans] poured chemicals over their dead bodies and burned them,’ a weeping Mr Samad told Reuters at the scene.

According to Al Jazeera, the soldier went into three separate houses at 3am local time when it was pitch black and shot the civilians, who were sleeping in their beds.

Bloody Sunday: Afghan soldiers and villagers congregate outside the houses where 17 civilians were killed by a U.S. soldier

Bloody Sunday: Afghan soldiers and villagers congregate outside the houses where 17 civilians were killed by a U.S. soldier

Perched: An elderly Afghan man sits next to the covered body of a person who was killed early today by a U.S. service member

Perched: An elderly Afghan man sits next to the covered body of a person who was killed early today by a U.S. service member

Scene of the crime: Afghan men investigate at the site of an shooting incident in Kandahar province

Scene of the crime: Afghan men investigate at the site of an shooting incident in Kandahar province

In shock: Relatives sat in shock in a van also carrying the bodies of their kin wrapped in blankets

In shock: Relatives sat in shock in a van also carrying the bodies of their kin wrapped in blankets

Beyond tears: An Afghan man sits in the back of a bus with the body of a person who was killed by a U.S. service member in Kandahar province
Defiant: An Afghan man guards the dead body of a boy killed by the gunman

Beyond tears: A grieving Afghan sits in a van next to one of the bodies (left) while another man sits in a truck bed keeping watch over the body of a young boy

A resident of Alkozai, where the shootings took place, told an AP reporter that 16 people were killed as the U.S. service member went into three different houses and started shooting.

The villager, Abdul Baqi, said he had not seen the bodies himself, but had talked to the family members of the dead.

‘When it was happening in the middle of the night we were inside our houses. I heard gunshots and then silence and then gunshots again,’ Mr Baqi said.

‘Eleven members of my family are dead. They are all dead.’

-Haji Samad

Reports say that 15 members from two Afghan families were slaughtered, as well as an unidentified sixteenth person.

Mr Karzai also said that five people were wounded. Their conditions are unknown.

Defence Secretary Leon Panetta called the Afghan president to express ‘profound regret’ and assure him that ‘this terrible incident does not reflect our shared values or the progress we have made together,’ his office said in a statement.

He concluded: ‘We will bring those responsible to justice.’

Maj Jason Waggoner, another spokesman for ISAF said: ‘The civilian casualties were not the result of any operations. The soldier was acting on his own. After the incident, he returned to the compound and turned himself in.’

'Deeply saddened': President Obama talks with Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai from the back of his vehicle in Chevy Chase, Maryland‘Deeply saddened’: President Obama talks with Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai from the back of his vehicle in Chevy Chase, Maryland

Demanding answers: Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the shootings as an 'assassination' and said it 'cannot be forgiven'Demanding answers: Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the shootings as an ‘assassination’ and said it ‘cannot be forgiven’

NATO-led International Security Assistance Force deputy commander Lt Gen Andrian Bradshaw would not speculate the reasoning behind the seemingly random attack.

Mr Karzai said in a statement that he was sending high-level authorities to investigate the shooting and deliver a full report. NATO officials, too, are conducting an inquiry.

‘This is an assassination, an intentional killing of innocent civilians and cannot be forgiven,’ Mr Karzai said in a statement, adding that he has repeatedly called for the U.S. to stop killing Afghan citizens.

TENSIONS RISING BETWEEN U.S. AND AFGHANISTAN

Pakistani Muslims shout anti-US slogans, as a US flag is burned, at a protest over the recent burning of Korans in Afghanistan, in Multan on March 2, 2012The attack by the so-called ‘rogue’ U.S. soldier is the latest in a string of tension points between the two countries.

Last month, violent protests erupted after U.S. troops burned copies of the Koran in Kabul; more than 30 were killed.

In January, a video seeming to depict Marines urinating on dead Afghans went viral. Both U.S. and UN officials called it ‘disgusting’ and ‘inhuman.’

Also in January, a report said that at least 58 Western troops were killed by Afghan soldiers between May 2007 to May 2011, showing deep distrust between Afghan soldiers and their supposed western allies.

The war in Afghanistan began more than a decade ago when the US, UK, and Australia launched ‘Operation Enduring Freedom.’

President Obama issued a statement this afternoon saying he is ‘deeply saddened’ by the ‘tragic and shocking’ killing of Afghan civilians by a U.S. soldier.

He said: ‘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.’

The White House said that Mr Obama phoned Mr Karzai to personally express his regret.

The president also vowed to ‘get the facts as quickly as possible and to hold accountable anyone responsible.’

On Sunday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a statement: ‘We are deeply concerned by the initial reports of this incident, and are monitoring the situation closely.’

There are precious few details on the alleged shooter. Officials have only said that he was an Army staff sergeant who was acting alone.

On CBS’ Face the Nation, Newt Gingrich commented on the escalating tensions in Afghanistan and elsewhere, saying: ‘I think that we have to reassess the entire region,’ noting Washington’s tumultuous relationship with neighbouring Pakistan as well.

Twelve of the dead were from Balandi, said Samad Khan, a farmer who lost all 11 members of his family, including women and children.

Mr Khan was away from the village when the incident occurred and returned to find his family members shot dead and burned.

One of his neighbours was also killed, he said. It was unclear how or why the bodies were set ablaze.

To prove that the bodies had been set on fire, Afghan villagers brought out badly burned blankets, the New York Times reported. More than 300 people came out to protest the senseless violence.

An AP photo showed the bloodstained corner of a house next to a large black area that was charred by fire. The charred area appeared to be remnants of blankets and possibly bodies that had been set on fire.

Villagers packed inside the minibus looked on with concern as a woman spoke to reporters. She pulled back a blanket to reveal the body of a smaller child wearing what appeared to be red pajamas.

A third dead child lay in a pile of green blankets in the bed of a truck.

Response: U.S. armoured vehicles parked outside the a U.S. base in Panjwai district Kandahar province following the attacks as Afghan citizens looked on

Response: U.S. armoured vehicles parked outside the a U.S. base in Panjwai district Kandahar province following the attacks as Afghan citizens looked on

Standing guard: Afghan National Army soldiers keep watch inside the base after the brutal attacksStanding guard: Afghan National Army soldiers keep watch inside the base after the brutal attacks

East meets west: A U.S. soldier, part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force the military base and passes a stone-faced Afghan man

East meets west: A U.S. soldier, part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force the military base and passes a stone-faced Afghan man

Eagle eyes: U.S. Army and Afghan soldiers were perched in a guard tower at their base in Panjwai following the deadly shootingsEagle eyes: U.S. Army and Afghan soldiers were perched in a guard tower at their base in Panjwai following the deadly shootings

OBAMA ‘DEEPLY SADDENED’ BY ‘SHOCKING’ AFGHAN SHOOTING

President Obama issued a statement today saying he is ¿deeply saddened¿ by the ¿tragic and shocking¿ killing of Afghan civilians by a U.S. soldier.President Obama issued a statement Sunday saying he is ‘deeply saddened’ by the ‘tragic and shocking’ killing of Afghan civilians by a U.S. soldier.

He said: ‘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.’

The president also vowed to ‘get the facts as quickly as possible and to hold accountable anyone responsible.’

‘This is an anti-human and anti-Islamic act,’ said Mr Khan.  ‘Nobody is allowed in any religion in the world to kill children and women.’

Mr Khan demanded that Karzai punish the American shooter.

‘Otherwise we will make a decision,’ said Mr Khan. ‘He should be handed over to us,’ he told the Associated Press.

‘I cannot explain the motivation behind such callous acts, but they were in no way part of authorised ISAF military activity,’ he said in a statement.

There were reports of protests in Panjwai following the shooting and the U.S. embassy warned travellers in Kandahar province to ‘exercise caution.’

The Afghan Taliban would take revenge for the deaths, the group said in an e-mailed statement to media.

‘The so-called American peacekeepers have once again quenched their thirst with the blood of innocent Afghan civilians in Kandahar province,’ the Taliban’s statement read.

The shooting comes after weeks of tense relations between U.S. forces and their Afghan hosts following the burning of Korans and other religious materials at an American base.

Though U.S. officials apologised and said the burning was purely accidental, the incident sparked violent protests and attacks that killed some 30 people and a host of anti-American protests.

Six U.S. troops have been killed in attacks by their Afghan colleagues since news of the Koran burnings came to light.

Age of innocence: Afghan boys sit on the ground near the scene where Afghans were killed by a U.S. service memberAge of innocence: Afghan boys sit on the ground near the scene where Afghans were killed by a U.S. service member

Furious: Afghan civilians gathered outside the military base today; tensions between the U.S. and Afghanistan have been tense at best for the past decadeFurious: Afghan civilians gathered outside the military base today; tensions between the U.S. and Afghanistan have been tense at best for the past decade

In the capital, meanwhile, Mr Karzai said the government still expects to sign a strategic partnership agreement with the United States by the time a NATO summit convenes in Chicago in May.

The agreement would formalize the U.S.-Afghan relationship and the role of U.S. forces in Afghanistan after NATO’s scheduled transfer of security responsibility to the Afghan government at the end of 2014.

‘The so-called American peacekeepers have once again quenched their thirst with the blood of innocent Afghan civilians in Kandahar province.’

-Afghan Taliban

But Mr Karzai stressed the importance of foreign forces leaving Afghanistan to preserve the country’s national sovereignty.

Any international forces that remain after 2014 would have to operate under strict guidelines governing their responsibilities and when they could leave their bases, he said.

‘We have a strong army and police, so it is to our benefit to have good relations with the international community, not have international troops in our country,’ Mr Karzai said at a public event in Kabul.

Retaliation: The political and religious party Jamat-e-Islami burn an effigy of President Obama in response to Koran burnings last month at a NATO base, heightening tensionsRetaliation: The political and religious party Jamat-e-Islami burn an effigy of President Obama in response to Koran burnings last month at a NATO base, heightening tensions

The president has demanded that international forces stop night raids on the homes of suspected militants as a condition to signing the strategic partnership agreement.

The raids have caused widespread anger among Afghans.

All foreign combat troops are slated to withdraw by end of 2014 from a costly war that has become increasingly unpopular.

Assassination attempt: Prominent Afghan women's rights activist Malalai Joya said a gunman tried to take her life SundayAssassination attempt: Prominent Afghan women’s rights activist Malalai Joya said a gunman tried to take her life Sunday

Also Sunday, a prominent Afghan women’s rights activist said gunmen attacked her office in a western province in an apparent assassination attempt.

Malalai Joya, a former Afghan lawmaker and vocal critic of both the Taliban and of criminality in the Afghan government, said the attack on her office in Farah province was the sixth attempt on her life to date.

Armed men tried to storm the compound before dawn on Saturday, she said.

The attackers did not get into the building but two of her guards were seriously injured and are currently in the hospital.

Ms Joya said she was in Kabul at the time but had planned a trip to Farah soon and news of that may have leaked out.

She said she believes the attackers thought she was in the building.

The shooting spree took place in the Panjwai district of Kandahar province this morning.

Captain Justin Brockhoff, Nato spokesman confirmed a U.S. service member had been detained following the attack.

The wounded are receiving treatment at a medical base and U.S. forces are investigating the shooting with Afghan authorities.

 

3 Responses

  1. Patriot says:

    Its incidents like this one that highlight the hypocrisy of this war. Deep down all these rat bastards (NATO) know they’ve lost the war and are getting delusional picking on the weakest targets like children and the elderly IN THEIR SLEEP. They will all die in Afghanistan (hopefully).

  2. wyates says:

    It’s events like this that justify the death penalty.

  3. Archie1954 says:

    Unfortunately the President is wrong. These killings are exactly what the vaunted US military is all about. The proof is evident in the number of times the US felt it necessary to apologize for these kind of incidents.

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