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Insurgents Attack Afghan Delegation at Massacre Site

March 13, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
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RAY SUAREZ: New violence erupted in Afghanistan today after a U.S. soldier allegedly killed 16 civilians Sunday. At the same time, President Obama condemned the killings again in his strongest words yet, and the U.S. military found probable cause to continue holding the suspect soldier.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Gunfire exploded again this morning at the scene of Sunday’s massacre near Kandahar. Insurgents opened fire on a visiting delegation of senior Afghan officials who had come to pay respects, including two of President Hamid Karzai’s brothers.

They were unhurt, but one Afghan guard was killed and another wounded. The Taliban said it was in retaliation for the killing of 16 Afghan civilians allegedly by an American soldier. And in Jalalabad, hundreds of Afghan students burned an effigy of President Obama and a cross.

MAN (through translator): We condemn the killing in Kandahar by the infidel occupiers. And, secondly, we want the immediate trial of the culprits for the killing of the martyred victims in Kandahar.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, in Washington, President Obama tried again to calm the anti-American rage.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The killing of innocent civilians is outrageous and it’s unacceptable. It’s not who we are as a country, and it does not represent our military.

And for that reason, I’ve directed the Pentagon to make sure that we spare no effort in conducting a full investigation. I can assure the American people and the Afghan people that we will follow the facts wherever they lead us, and we will make sure that anybody who was involved is held fully accountable with the full force of the law.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The soldier in custody is a 38-year-old staff sergeant from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state. Pentagon officials continued to withhold his name today, pending charges.

But they said he served three tours in Iraq, where he suffered a traumatic brain injury at one point.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, traveling abroad, said the soldier could be subject to the death penalty. He also argued that Sunday’s attack must not undermine the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LEON PANETTA: War is hell. These kinds of events and incidents are going to take place. They’ve taken place in any war. They’re terrible events. And this is not the first of those events, and it probably won’t be the last.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The Taliban demanded today that the soldier be tried as a war criminal and then executed by the victims’ relatives.