03/12/2012, 00.00
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After Kandahar massacre, U.S. military fears new Taliban reprisals

Over the weekend a soldier killed 16 civilians, including nine children. Then he turned himself in to his superiors. U.S. President Barack Obama expressed condolences from the government. But the tragedy threatens to undermine the relations between the two countries even further and weaken the position of Hamid Karzai.

Kabul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The U.S. military in Afghanistan is in a state of high alert, fearing reprisals from local militias to avenge the killing of civilians by a U.S. soldier. The massacre took place around 3 am March 11 (local time) in two villages not far from a U.S. base in Kandahar, south of the country, among the victims there are also nine children, five injured in the attack are hospitalized in the field hospital. U.S. President Barack Obama called his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai to express his condolences for the tragedy. U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says a "serious investigation" is underway to determine the responsibilities and punish the guilty.

Local sources report that the victims lived in villages Alkozai and Najeeban, about 500 meters from the base. The raid targeted three houses, in one of these, in Najeeban, 11 bodies were found, some of them showed signs of burns. At least three children were killed with one shot in the head, in what appears to be a real execution.

After the raid the U.S. soldier - perhaps a sergeant from the Lewis-McChord center, Washington state, married and father of two, with three tours of duty in Iraq and on is first tour in Afghanistan - returned to the base and handed himself over to his superiors. At present he is in custody in the Kandahar base, pending the findings of the investigation. Initial indications suggest that the gesture was a result of a "nervous breakdown".

The murderous raid of the weekend is just the latest in a series of serious incidents with U.S. Army soldiers as protagonists. Last month, the burning of the Koran in a U.S. base in Kabul sparked violence and reaction of the lunatic fringe of a large part of the Afghan civilian population. Previously, in January, images of a video posted on the internet, where at least four Marines are urinating on the bodies of four Taliban were seen around the world.

The U.S. government reports rumors of possible new anti-American protests and further attacks, "especially in eastern and southern provinces" of Afghanistan. Barack Obama spoke of "tragic and shocking," events that "does not represent" the behaviour of the American army and "the respect that the United States have for the Afghan people."

However, international policy experts argue that this episode has further compromised the already fragile alliance between Kabul and Washington, undermining the image of the Afghan president engaged in delicate negotiations with the Taliban for peace in the country. The extremist militias exploit the massacre committed by the soldier, in terms of anti-American propaganda and against Karzai.

Tribal groups are crying out for the end of the night raids on the homes of civilians, and are demanding justice for the massacre and emphasizing that apologies are not enough. It may take more vigorous protests and demonstrations for an early withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country, putting an end to a possible strategic alliance between the two governments, which means "to grant a long-term presence of U.S. representatives on the ground" .


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