The details are still unfolding in the latest Afghanistan crisis, but here’s what we know: At least 16 villagers — including nine women and three children — in three houses were killed when a soldier opened fire, according to wire reporters on the scene and speaking with Afghans in Balandi and Alkozai, near a U.S. base in the southern part of the country. NATO was the first to react, confirming that a U.S. servicemember had been detained near the base as the suspected shooter.
Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, was the first to release a statement:
“I was shocked and saddened to hear of the shooting incident today in Kandahar Province. I offer my profound regret and deepest condolences to the victims and their families. I pledge to all the noble people of Afghanistan my commitment to a rapid and thorough investigation.
In the meantime, we will continue to offer medical care for those who were injured in this shooting. We will maintain custody of the U.S. service member alleged to have perpetrated this attack. And we will cooperate fully with local Afghan authorities as we ascertain all the facts.
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. Nor does it impugn or diminish the spirit of cooperation and partnership we have worked so hard to foster with the Afghan National Security Forces.”
Just before 2 p.m. Eastern time, the White House then issued this statement from President Obama:
“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. 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.”
Obama has left the White House to go watch his daughter Sasha’s basketball game.
“When Afghan people are killed deliberately by US forces this action is murder and terror and an unforgivable action,” President Hamid Karzai said in statement.
Even Al-Jazeera is calling this the act of a “rogue” U.S. soldier, who according to their sources is an Army staff sergeant who came back to the base and turned himself in afterward. But in this restive region already reeling from the anti-U.S. reaction to inadvertent Quran burnings, you can bet that this criminal act will also hurt the good men and women across all NATO forces who have spilled blood for Afghans’ freedom.
UPDATE: This just from the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s statement:
“Today I spoke to President Karzai to offer my deepest condolences and profound regret for the tragic incident in Kandahar province that resulted in the loss of life and injuries to innocent Afghan civilians, including women and children.
A full investigation is already underway. 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.
I condemn such violence and am shocked and saddened that a U.S. service member is alleged to be involved, clearly acting outside his chain of command. I told President Karzai that the American people share the outrage felt by President Karzai and his fellow citizens. This tragic incident does not reflect the commitment of the U.S. military to protect the Afghan people and help build a strong and stable Afghanistan.
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. 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 forging a more peaceful future for the citizens of both our nations.”