Obama calls Karzai over civilian killings

Washington: President Barack Obama today called his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai to express shock over the killing of 16 civilians, mostly women and children in Kandahar by a US soldier and assured him to hold fully accountable anyone responsible, the White House has said.

"President Obama extended his condolences to the people of Afghanistan, and made clear his Administration`s commitment to establish the facts as quickly as possible and to hold fully accountable anyone responsible," it said in a statement after the telephonic conversation between the two leaders.

Obama called Karzai to express his shock and sadness at the reported killing and wounding of Afghan civilians. Nine children and three women are among the victim.

"The President reaffirmed our deep respect for the Afghan people and the bonds between our two countries," it said.

Earlier also, Obama had expressed shock at the killing of 16 civilians in Kandahar by a US soldier, which he said does not represent the American values. "This incident is tragic and shocking, and does not represent the exceptional character of our military and the respect that the US has for the people of Afghanistan," he said. "I am deeply saddened by the reported killing and wounding of Afghan civilians.

I offer my condolences to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives, and to the people of Afghanistan, who have endured too much violence and suffering," Obama said.

"I fully support Secretary Panetta`s and General Allen`s commitment to get the facts as quickly as possible and to hold accountable anyone responsible," he said. General John Allen, is the Commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta called Afghan President Hamid Karzai, to express condolence.

"A suspect is in custody, and I gave President Karzai my assurances that we will bring those responsible to justice. We will spare no effort in getting the facts as quickly as possible, and we will hold any perpetrator who is responsible for this violence fully accountable under the law," he said.

A full investigation is already under way, he added. Shocked and saddened that a US service member is alleged to be involved, clearly acting outside his chain of command, Panetta said he told Karzai that the American people share the outrage felt by his and Afghans.

"This tragic incident does not reflect the commitment of the US military to protect the Afghan people and help build a strong and stable Afghanistan," he said.

"As we mourn today with the Afghan people, we are steadfast in our resolve to work hand in hand with our Afghan partners to accomplish the missions and goals on which we have been working together for so long," he said.

"This terrible incident does not reflect our shared values or the progress we have made together. As I told President Karzai, I am fully committed to ensuring that our cooperation continues. It is essential to forging a more peaceful future for the citizens of both our nations," Panetta said.

General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, his spokesman said, was alerted by phone early this morning and has been receiving regular updates.

He has been in contact with the ISAF Commander and is confident that Gen John Allen and his staff are taking the appropriate steps to quickly and thoroughly investigate the circumstances of this incident.

Gen Dempsey is also trying to set up a phone call with his counterpart, Gen Karimi, when he is available, the Pentagon official said.