News24

Rogue US soldier could get death

2012-03-13 08:55

Bishkek - The US soldier suspected of killing 16 Afghan civilians in a shooting rampage could face the death penalty if convicted, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said on Monday.

The Pentagon chief told reporters aboard his aircraft en route to Kyrgyzstan that the suspect in the Afghan shooting spree would be brought to justice under the US military legal code, which allows for the death penalty in some cases.

Asked if the suspect could be sentenced to death, Panetta said: "My understanding is in these instances, that could be a consideration."

Despite demands from the Afghan parliament for a public trial, Panetta's remarks echoed earlier statements from Washington that the rogue soldier would be tried in a US military court.

After walking off his base, the suspect entered Afghan homes and fired on civilian families, "then at some point after that came back to the forward operating base and basically turned himself in. Told individuals what happened", Panetta said.

When asked if that amounted to a confession, Panetta said: "I suspect that was the case."

Karzai assured

Panetta condemned the incident as a "terrible loss of life" and said it remained unclear what may have led the gunman to murder civilians, pending the outcome of a US investigation.

"We're not sure why, what the reasons were," he said.

"I have assured President [Hamid] Karzai that he will be brought to justice and held accountable," the US defence chief said.

Panetta repeated the US administration's stance that the shooting, the latest in a spate of damaging incidents that have strained US-Afghan relations, would not force a change to the current strategy, which calls for a gradual drawdown of US and Nato troops through 2014.

The shooting spree followed violent unrest last month that erupted after US soldiers burned Qur'ans at the Bagram airbase, with 40 people killed in the rioting.

President Barack Obama and top commanders apologised for that incident, which they said was an accident and not intentional, but the episode has plunged US relations with Kabul into a serious crisis.

Responsible end

"War is hell. These kinds of events and incidents are going to take place," Panetta said of the shooting.

But he portrayed the attack as an isolated incident and said "we cannot allow these events to undermine our strategy or the mission that we're involved in".

"It's important that we push on, and that we bring this war to a responsible end and achieve the mission that all of us are embarked on," he said.

The Pentagon chief insisted that the war effort was not in jeopardy, and that the Afghan government continued to co-operate while Afghan army and police remained steadfast partners.

As evidence, he cited how Afghan forces have responded to protests over the Qur'an burning and the shooting attack in Kandahar province.

"The Afghan army is doing very well in maintaining order. We're not getting large-scale desertions, we're not getting any kind of disruptions. They recognise what they have to do and they're doing it," he said.

Bishkek airfield

The US soldier walked off his base in southern Kandahar province and broke into three village homes before dawn on Sunday, gunning down 16 people including women and children - an event described by Karzai as "unforgivable".

Panetta said he was headed to Bishkek to speak to Kyrgyz leaders about the "importance" of the Manas air base outside the city, a vital hub used to ferry troops to the war in Afghanistan and refuel warplanes.

"I want to thank them and ensure that relationship can continue into the future as well," he said.

After Kyrgyzstan threatened to cancel US access to the base in 2009, Washington agreed to pay Bishkek $60m a year for use of the air field, up from an earlier annual fee of about $17m, officials said.

The current deal is due to expire in the summer of 2014.

Comments
  • Skuiter - 2012-03-13 09:12

    Good luck with that. If this man laywers up, he can drag this out for years. He can blame the US for driving him to this. No military court will give him a death sentence.

      Stan - 2012-03-13 10:25

      he is a c*nt who deserves to die ....

      Juan - 2012-03-13 10:35

      I think you are wrong. He won't be tried through the civil court system, he will be tried in military court. This has seriously undermined the US efford in Afghanistan, and apart from the fact that the murder of 16 civilians incl. women and children is very serious, this has put the lives of the Western forces under increased risk. They will have to make an example of this guy, can't see that they would have any other choice.

      dirk.smit1 - 2012-03-13 10:46

      Nice Stan. You do not know the circumstances so calling him that is bit harsh. But your right, if he understood what he was doing then I agree with you.

  • J-Man - 2012-03-13 09:12

    So what he basically did was take the lives of innocent men, women and children? Isn't that what everyone is doing these days with their Air raids, Suicide Bombings, war.......? Nice world we live in.

      dirk.smit1 - 2012-03-13 10:49

      @J-Man - I am with you, what makes this any different than someone blowing up a house in an air strike? Whether he does it with a gun on a shooting spree or shoot them with a missile, it's the same, right?

      Dawood - 2012-03-13 11:03

      A survivor of this evil deed claims it was more than 10 soldiers that committed this despicable crime..as usual the US defence force makes one person the fall guy,takes him to the US,under the premise of trying him and he'll be free to live a great life..MURDERERS

  • malcolm - 2012-03-13 09:21

    The minute he left the US army base without military orders, he was entering civilian life. He should have a civilian trial at the hands of the Afghan people. If a soldier runs into Walmart on a shooting spree in the USA, does he get a military trial or a civilian trial? The US laws need to apply consistency. J-man, I agree with you. The average man in the street has no interest in war. The few power mongers in this world lead us to war for selfish monetary gain. War is the method of gaining control, and the average man in the street is the pawn.

      dirk.smit1 - 2012-03-13 10:52

      @Melcolm - So right you are. What has the innocent have to do with the power hungry so called "leaders".

      Dawood - 2012-03-13 11:10

      @ malcolm i respect and admire your true opinion..not based on race,ethnicity etc..war is created by a few to usurp the worlds resources and wealth..terrorism is the reply you get from the defenceless ppl who fight back without any modern weapons and powerful weapons..these ruthless thieves even own the worlds media and feed the gullible amongst us with their propoganda..WAR IS BIG BUSINESS,and most of the american politicians get a big slice of the cake by voting for wars..

  • BJ - 2012-03-13 09:59

    The last bunch of US military than went on a civilian killing spree in Afghanistan got 5 years, with possibility of parole after 3.

      clivecorbz - 2012-03-13 10:41

      Or the case Frank Wuterich, who got a pay cut and demoted to private following the death of 24 civillians at the hands of his squad... While it was under different circumstances, I do think it's a good example of how the Americans completely undervalue the lives of the civillians and blindly view these people as heros, regardless of their actions.

      Dawood - 2012-03-13 11:11

      they're probably back in the military..no justice if you're not american

      Fidel - 2012-03-13 11:54

      Or the Navy captain that blew up an Iranian airliner in intl airspace and got a heroe's medal for blowing up innocent people. The US should go down in history as the worse horror show in human History who do not deserve to be leading a show sled much less the free world. Amerika is a terrible EVIL, a scourge upon the world. It has devolved into a violent, war mongering beast that destroys and kills. The U.S. has become fascist in its death throes as it hurtles toward irrelevancy. God bless america and all who sink with her! Imperial hubris knows no bounds.

  • zaakiro - 2012-03-13 10:20

    The value of a single life has been lost in society, the days when a single death was so over whelming, nowadays we are so used to hearing such incident it sad that it hardly affects us...unless it's a close relative or friend. Imagine the situation where entire families have been killed, imagine if a little kid was left all alone to survive, not for a day or for a year but for their entire lifetime having the memory of his family been killed. We in South Africa have become so used to large number of deaths on our roads, and it has become a norm, very little sympathy is shown, right from the top to the ordinary person on the street. How responsible are the men who countries send out, with the US involved in so many conflicts it seems their men are over-worked into such situations when innocent people are left to take the flack, many more are been killed, many women are been raped, many children are been abused because these US soldiers are loosing their minds in a war they constantly loosing...

  • bluzulu - 2012-03-13 10:25

    More crime committed by the American armed forces.....sound familiar. This G.I Joe mentality is unforgiveable.

  • chunawana - 2012-03-13 10:42

    The first casualty of war, is innocence.

      Garth - 2012-03-15 15:16

      Platoon

  • brett.macdonald1 - 2012-03-13 10:51

    Bla bla bla! The Obama admistration is under fire in how it treats whistle-blower Bradley Manning in the wake of letting off it's soldiers who committed human rights violations... This guy will have to face the firing squad in a pathetic PR campaign nearing the elections... Change? What have you changed Obama?

  • Kerry - 2012-03-13 11:37

    HE'S UPSET A FEW FUNDAMENTALISTS I AM SURE................?

  • Marick - 2012-03-13 13:43

    There were comments from locals that there were more than 1 soldier involved, including a number of other news articles. Have they established now that there was only one soldier? Were all the numerous locals reporting they saw more than one solider all wrong? I highly doubt that there was one - probably being pinned as a scapegoat.

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