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US Soldier(s) Open Fire on Afghan Civilians in Murder Spree

- Common Dreams staff

UPDATE:

The latest reports coming from witnesses are now saying that more than one US soldier partook in last nights rogue killings. Sources vary; however, up to 3 soldiers took part in the attacks taking the lives of many, including nine children.Afghan National Army soldiers keep watch as Afghans gather outside a U.S. base in Panjwai district Kandahar province, March 11, 2012. (REUTERS/Ahmad Nadeem)

Reuters reports:

Western forces shot dead 16 civilians including nine children in southern Kandahar province on Sunday, Afghan officials said, in a rampage that witnesses said was carried out by American soldiers who were laughing and appeared drunk.

One Afghan father who said his children were killed in the shooting spree accused soldiers of later burning the bodies.

Witnesses told Reuters they saw a group of U.S. soldiers arrive at their village in Kandahar's Panjwayi district at around 2 am, enter homes and open fire. [...]

Haji Samad said 11 of his relatives were killed in one house, including his children. Pictures showed blood-splattered walls where the children were killed.

"They (Americans) poured chemicals over their dead bodies and burned them," a weeping Samad told Reuters at the scene.

"I saw that all 11 of my relatives were killed, including my children and grandchildren," said Samad, who had left the home a day earlier.

Neighbors said they awoke to crackling gunfire from American soldiers, whom they described as laughing and drunk.

"They were all drunk and shooting all over the place," said neighbor Agha Lala, who visited one of the homes where the incident took place. "Their bodies were riddled with bullets."

Earlier:

A US soldier has killed up to 17 civilians in a shooting spree in southern Afghanistan. The Soldier left base in the early hours of the morning and broke into several houses killing many men, women, and children.(Photo: LA Times)

Los Angeles Times reports:

Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan -- A lone American serviceman slipped away from his base in southern Afghanistan before dawn Sunday and went on a methodical house-to-house shooting spree in a nearby village, killing 16 people, nearly all of them women and children, according to Afghan officials who visited the scene.

The NATO force confirmed that the assailant was in military custody, and that he had inflicted an unspecified number of casualties during the shooting spree at about 3 a.m. Sunday. The U.S. Embassy called for calm and expressed deep condolences; the Taliban referred to the killings as an “act of genocide.”

The British Broadcasting Corp. reported that the shooter was a staff sergeant and a member of the U.S. special operations forces who had been involved in training the Afghan police.

The incident, potentially the worst atrocity of the 10-year war to be deliberately carried out by a single member of the Western military, represents a stunning setback to U.S.-Afghan relations, already shaken by last month’s burning of copies of the Koran at a U.S. military base north of Kabul.

Anti-U.S. sentiment flared into deadly riots after the Koran-burning at Bagram airfield came to light. American officials have said the action was a mistake and offered profuse apologies, but some Afghans, including lawmakers and senior clerics, brushed aside the apologies and called for harsh punishment of those involved.

The shooting early Sunday took place in Panjwayi district outside Kandahar city, in a village called Alkozai. U.S. military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was believed that the assailant had suffered a mental breakdown.

Al-Jazeera reports:

"Eleven members of my family are dead. They are all dead," Haji Samad, an elder from Panjwai district, told the AFP news agency.

Captain Justin Brockhoff, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), could not confirm any fatalities in the incident.

“This is a horrific incident, and our thoughts are with the families of the affected. Our initial reports indicate multiple civilians - between four and six- are wounded. Those civilians are receiving care at coalition medical facilities," he told Al Jazeera.

"At this point we do not have an indication - we can not speculate about the individual's motives."

Al Jazeera's Bernard Smith, reporting from Herat, said the soldier entered three houses near the base and opened fire on civilians.

"We are now being told by the police sources that the US soldier left his base at three o clock this morning. It would have been pitch-black wherever he walked," he said.

"The soldier went through three separate houses, shooting at people as they slept in their beds. After the soldier shot these people, he turned himself in."

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