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Marine commander contrite on Afghan killings

/ Source: The Associated Press

A U.S. commander said Tuesday he is “deeply ashamed” by the Marine killings of Afghan civilians in March and reported that the American military has made condolence payments to their families.

“Today we met with the families of those victims: 19 dead and 50 injured,” said Col. John Nicholson, commander of the 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, deployed in eastern Afghanistan. “We made official apologies on the part of the U.S. government” and payments of about $2,000 for each death.

Speaking to Pentagon reporters by video conference from Afghanistan, Nicholson read the apology he said he made to the families.

“I stand before you today, deeply, deeply ashamed and terribly sorry that Americans have killed and wounded innocent Afghan people,” he said.

“The death and wounding of innocent Afghans at the hands of Americans is a stain on our honor and on the memory of the many Americans who have died defending Afghanistan and the Afghan people,” Nicholson said.

A U.S. Marines convoy — fleeing after a suicide car bombing on March 4 — fired indiscriminately on vehicles and pedestrians, killing 12 people.

A U.S. military commander has determined that the Marines used excessive force and referred the case for possible criminal inquiry.

Military killings of civilians have been eroding Afghan support for international forces on its soil and the shaky U.S.-backed government and Afghans have protested the killings.