Alleged killer of Afghans has brain injury, says US

Alleged killer of Afghans has brain injury, says US

Alleged killer of Afghans has brain injury, says US

Afghans burn an effigy depicting US President Barack Obama following March 11 killing of civilians in Panjwai, Kandahar by a US soldier during a protest in Jalalabad. AP photo

The Pentagon’s chief has hinted that the soldier suspected of killing 16 Afghan civilians could face the death penalty while another U.S. official said the suspect had previously suffered a traumatic brain injury.

Meanwhile, an Afghan soldier was killed yesterday as gunmen fired on a government delegation visiting one of the two villages where the shooting spree took place. Asked if the suspected serviceman could be sentenced to death, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said, “My understanding is in these instances that could be a consideration.”

Another U.S. official said the Army staff sergeant accused in the incident had been treated for a traumatic brain injury suffered in a vehicle rollover in 2010 during a previous deployment in Iraq. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was premature to state whether there was any link between the brain injury and the March 11 shootings.

Taliban anger kills Afghan soldier
NATO said the incident would not affect plans to turn over security operations to local troops, calling for a quick investigation into the deaths. Meanwhile, Taliban militants opened fire yesterday on an Afghan government delegation visiting one of the two villages in southern Afghanistan where the U.S. soldier was suspected of killing 16 civilians in a shooting rampage. The gunfire killed an Afghan soldier who was providing security for the delegation in Balandi village. Another Afghan soldier and a military prosecutor were reportedly wounded in the attack.

The delegation, which included two of President Hamid Karzai’s brothers and other senior officials, was holding a memorial service in a mosque for the civilians killed in the incident. Hundreds of students chanted “Death to America” and proclaimed holy war yesterday as they staged Afghanistan’s first protest against the incident. The demonstration in the eastern city of Jalalabad came after the U.S. embassy in Kabul warned its citizens to be on their guard, mindful of a wave of deadly protests last month against the burning of Qurans at a U.S. military base.

Compiled from AFP, AP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.