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U.S. Commander Expresses Remorse over Accidental Deaths

By Carmen L. Gleason
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 8, 2007 – A troop commander in Afghanistan delivered an apology today to family members of innocent Afghans who were killed following an attack on a Marine unit in the country March 4.

On behalf of the U.S. government and coalition forces, Col. John Nicholson, commander of the 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, apologized to the families of the 19 who were killed and 50 injured in the fighting following a suicide attack on a U.S. Marine Special Forces Unit.

“All life is precious,” Nicholson said in his prepared statement. “Our soldiers believe this, the American people believe this.”

Nicholson also gave the family members token amounts of money, “not as a claim, but as a gesture of genuine condolence and deep regret over the incident.”

“I stand before you today deeply, deeply ashamed and terribly sorry that Americans have killed and wounded innocent Afghan people,” he continued. “…the death and wounding of innocent Afghans at the hand of Americans is a stain on our honor and on the memories of many American who have died defended Afghanistan and the Afghan people.”

Nicholson told reporters during a press briefing from Afghanistan that U.S. forces go to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties. He said that connections with local people are of great importance to U.S. forces.

“It they do occur we go to great lengths to make it right with the people who suffered, because that’s what America stands for,” he said.

“We seek to do no harm to innocent people,” Nicholson said during the press conference. “So events such as that do set us back with the population and do need to be addressed directly.”

He said that by showing respect and being genuinely remorseful the meeting had great cultural significance and had a positive outcome with the families involved.

“They hold us to a higher standard,” he said. “And they should hold us to a higher standard. We should hold ourselves to a higher standard, because we are professionals and we can do better than that.”

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