Nightly News | March 13, 2012
>>> more tonight about the u.s. army staff sergeant in a rampage that killed 16 innocent civilians in afghanistan . the latest, really in a string of incidents that have all been big steps back in the massive military effort, the effort to win hearts and minds in afghanistan that long ago became this nation's longest war . the president used strong wording when talking about it today in the white house rose garden .
>> the united states takes this as seriously as if it was our own citizens and our own children who were murdered. we are heart broken over the loss of innocent life . the killing of innocent civilian civilians is outrageous and it's unacceptable. it's not who we are as a country and it does not represent our military.
>> still questions tonight go to motive, possible reprise sals a and how it might affect. our chief correspondent is in afghanistan tonight. richard, what have we been able to gather there and elsewhere about the attack and the immediate aftermath?
>> quite a bit, brian. good evening. our pentagon correspondent jim miklaszewski was told my military officials that on the night of the shooting, a search party went out looking for the missing 38-year-old staff sergeant. he was first spotted from the air, either by a drone or a helicopter. they saw him crawling through an open field on his belly, heading back to the base. they tracked him from the air. as soon as he got to the base, he was confronted by soldiers, asked specifically about the shooting. at that stage, he said i did it. he was taken into custody, disarmed. he demanded to speak to a lawyer and after that has refused to cooperate any further. as for why, it's still unclear. there are reports that he was having marital difficulties, that he had recently received a letter, not a good one, from his wife. and u.s. officials say they do have reason to believe that alcohol may have been involved. but whatever the reason, now afghanistan has to deal with this. afghan president hamid karzai today tried to make amends for the u.s. troops keeping him in power. he sent a delegation led by two of his brothers to a memorial for the 16 civilians allegedly killed by a rogue american sergeant. the response came a short time later. the delegation was attacked. the one afghan soldier killed. this soldier said the taliban knew government officials were coming. in jalaibad, students burned an effigy of president obama and a christian cross . but the crowd was fairly small, just a few hundred. it's not the nationwide uproar some u.s. officials fear still might come. as the savagery of the killing spree sinks in. it was a bloodbath. 16 dead, 11 of them from the family of this man, abdul samid. his wife and eight children, ages 2 to 12 methodically killed as the american chased them from room to room, shooting them and stabbing them and then trying to burn their bodies. the family had recently returned to this rural area, the government telling farmers it was safe. instead, they were killed in their beds. they were lined up, swaddled in bed sheets . a tiny corpse in the back of a truck. all the bodies were brought together and burnt, says a relative. i'm asking these elders, karzai, the ministers that the culprit be handed over to afghanistan and put on trial. after the shooting, villagers gathered outside the u.s. base lingering, searching for answers. some afghans thought having u.s. troops nearby would make them safer. in kabul, afghans we spoke to didn't appear to blame all americans. but the killer should be executed. that is the punishment, said this man. and that could happen. the united states is considering capital murder charges that carry the death penalty after an american court-martial, most likely in afghanistan . u.s. officials say the court-martial will likely take place here, both to send a message to afghans and because of the logistical problems of bringing witnesses out of the country. brian?
>> richard engle starting us off from our bureau in afghanistan .