`Afghan killing suspect could face death penalty`

The US soldier, who killed 16 civilians in Afghanistan could face a death penalty if convicted, Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has said.

Washington: The US soldier, who killed 16
civilians in Afghanistan could face a death penalty if convicted, Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has said, while asserting that the tragic incident was but an "isolated" one.

The suspect, who has been arrested, went on a killing spree over the weekend, shooting down civilians, most of them
women and children, in an act that has taken anti-America
sentiment to a new high in Afghanistan.

According to Fox news, Panetta told reporters travelling with him to Kyrgyzstan that the suspect may face "capital
charges", but the US must resist pressure to change course in
Afghanistan because of anti-America outrage over the shooting.

The suspect, whose name has not been released by the
Pentagon so far, is from a military base in Washington State
-- some soldiers from where have had similar violent histories
in the past, reports said.
"War is hell," Panetta said, but insisted that the
incident is not a sign that stress of 10 years of war was
pushing US troops to a breaking point.

"We seem to get tested almost every other day with
challenges that test our leadership and our commitment to the
mission that we`re involved in," Panetta said.

The suspect, 38, suffered traumatic brain injury in 2010
after a vehicle rollover accident in Iraq, though he later was
deemed "fit for duty".

Panetta said the suspect had "family problems," possibly
related to trouble in his marriage, before deploying for the
fourth time.

"I think when you look at that larger picture, it does
make clear that these kinds of events are isolated and don`t
represent what`s really happening in Afghanistan," he was
quoted as saying by the military Star and Stripes newspaper.

PTI