Officials Believe Gunman Acted Alone, Press Secretary Says

WASHINGTON, March 12, 2012 — Offi­cials believe a lone ser­vice mem­ber was involved in the shoot­ing deaths of 16 civil­ians in Afghanistan’s Kan­da­har province over the week­end, Pen­ta­gon Press Sec­re­tary George Lit­tle said today.

Alleged­ly, an Army non­com­mis­sioned offi­cer left his base and killed 16 Afghans in near­by vil­lages. He turned him­self in to author­i­ties upon his return to the base, Lit­tle said.

The sol­dier had served mul­ti­ple tours in Iraq and is on his first Afghanistan deploy­ment, the press sec­re­tary said.

“We believe at this time only one ser­vice mem­ber was involved,” Lit­tle said. “Beyond that, I real­ly can’t com­ment fur­ther.” The inves­ti­ga­tion into the inci­dent con­tin­ues, he added.

U.S. offi­cials – includ­ing Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta – are in touch with their Afghan coun­ter­parts. The sec­re­tary called Afghan Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai and to expressed his deep­est con­do­lences to the vic­tims and their fam­i­lies.

“This is an iso­lat­ed inci­dent,” Lit­tle said. “We will pur­sue account­abil­i­ty for the alleged actions of this ser­vice mem­ber.”

Lit­tle would not spec­u­late on a motive for the inci­dent. “We are very trou­bled it hap­pened and are very inter­est­ed in know­ing why the alleged shoot­er might have done this,” he said. But the actions of one indi­vid­ual will not force the Unit­ed States to change its fun­da­men­tal strat­e­gy in Afghanistan, he added.

“We con­tin­ue to work close­ly with our Afghan part­ners through­out the coun­try to pur­sue our com­mon mis­sion,” he said. “We are mind­ful it wasn’t just a U.S. response to this inci­dent. Our Afghan part­ners respond­ed quick­ly as well, and we believe that is a sign of strength in the rela­tion­ship.”

No one should think that the Unit­ed States “is steer­ing away from our part­ner­ship with the Afghan peo­ple, from our part­ner­ship with the Afghan Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Forces, and from our com­mit­ment to pros­e­cute the war effort,” the press sec­re­tary said.

Lit­tle could not say when the ser­vice mem­ber will be charged, nor would he put time­lines on the inves­ti­ga­tions. “We want to make sure we have a com­plete pic­ture of what hap­pened in this hor­rif­ic event,” he said. “And we pre­pare for pos­si­ble crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion.”

An inves­tiga­tive team and a pros­e­cu­tor have been assigned, Lit­tle said. “We are going to work close­ly with the Afghans on this inves­ti­ga­tion,” he added.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)