Merkel sends Karzai condolences after massacre | News | DW | 12.03.2012
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Merkel sends Karzai condolences after massacre

Taliban militants have vowed revenge, raising concerns of reprisal attacks after the Sunday rampage by a US soldier that killed 16 civilians. Germany's chancellor is in Afghanistan and offered her condolences to Karzai.

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel was visiting German troops in the north of Afghanistan on Monday, one day after 16 civilians were killed by an apparent rogue US soldier.

She called Afghan President Hamid Karzai from Mazar-e-Sharif and offered her "personal condolences" following "the terrible actions of a US soldier," a German government spokesman said.

Merkel also assured Karzai that the NATO forces in Afghanistan would do everything in their power to clear up the situation, the spokesman told the news agency Associated Press.

The Taliban had vowed on Monday to avenge the deaths shortly after the US embassy had warned its citizens of possible reprisal attacks in retaliation for the massacre.

In a statement posted on its website, the Islamist militant group threatened revenge against "sick-minded Americans … for every single martyr."

"A large number from amongst the victims are innocent children, women and the elderly, martyred by the American barbarians who mercilessly robbed them of their precious lives," the Taliban said.

The US embassy warned its citizens in Afghanistan that "there is a risk of anti-American feelings and protests in the coming days" as a consequence of the "tragic shooting incident in Kandahar province involving a US service member."

The Afghan parliament, meanwhile, called on Monday for the soldier - who has been detained - to face trial in Afghanistan.

"We seriously demand and expect that the government of the United States punish the culprits and try them in a public trial before the people of Afghanistan," the lower house of parliament said in a release.

US account

A single, heavily armed US soldier left his base in Kandahar province on Sunday, killing 16 Afghan civilians in their homes, according to reports by the US-led forces.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressed outrage over the massacre, calling it "unforgivable." The Afghan Defense Ministry has said that its initial reports indicate the shooter acted alone but left open the possibility that there were accomplices.

"When Afghan people are killed deliberately by US forces, this action is murder and terror and an unforgivable action," Karzai said.

US President Barack Obama called the Afghan president and promised a speedy investigation into the killings.

Villagers skeptical

Local Afghan officials, however, have questioned the US account of the shootings, saying that villagers reported hearing small arms fire from different directions.

"The villagers said they were hearing machine-gun fire and pistol fire from different directions," Abdul Ghani, a local councilman in Panjwai district, told the Associated Press.

Kandaharprovince lawmaker Abdul Rahim Ayubi expressed doubt that a single soldier could carry out a massacre across two separate villages.

"It is not possible for only one American soldier to come out of his base, kill a number of people far away, burn the bodies, go to another house and kill civilians there, then walk at least two kilometers and enter another house, kill civilians and burn them," Ayubi told the Associated Press.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for killing six US soldiers in retaliatory attacks for the burning of Qurans and religious material in February. The Quran burnings sparked nationwide protests that killed more than 30 people.

In 2011, a total of 3,021 civilians died in the war in Afghanstan, with 77 percent of the deaths attributed to attacks by the Taliban, according to a UN report.

sjt, slk/ncy (AP, AFP, Reuters)