Massacre of Civilians Ignites Fury in Afghanistan

Residents sat with the bodies of shooting victims in the Panjwai district of southern Afghanistan. (Mustafa Khan/European Pressphoto Agency)

Massacre of Civilians Ignites Fury in Afghanistan

'Let Us Live in Peace,' say Afghans who want US to leave

Despair, frustration and palpable outrage hangs over Afghanistan on Monday, a day after a US soldier left his military base near Kandahar and massacred 16 Afghan civilians, including nine children. Reporters and investigators are still seeking absolute clarity that only one US soldier was involved, while the Taliban has vowed revenge against the 'sick-minded American savages' behind the attack.

The lone soldier is now in US custody, but there were calls Monday for any and all guilty US soldiers to be handed over to Afghan authorities for a public trial. Above all, the terrible crime has led many to renew calls for an end to the decade long war and for US forces to leave Afghanistan at once.

Reuters reports:

Popular fury over the killing spree, which brought demands that the United States withdraw earlier than scheduled, could be exploited by the Taliban to gain new recruits.

"We have benefited little from the foreign troops here but lost everything - our lives, dignity and our country to them," said Haji Najiq, a Kandahar shop owner.

"The explanation or apologies will not bring back the dead. It is better for them to leave us alone and let us live in peace."

"The explanation or apologies will not bring back the dead. It is better for them to leave us alone and let us live in peace."

Anti-Americanism, which boiled over after copies of the Muslim holy book, the Koran, were inadvertently burned at a NATO base last month is likely to deepen after the Kandahar carnage.

"The Americans said they will leave in 2014. They should leave now so we can live in peace," said Mohammad Fahim, 19, a university student. "Even if the Taliban return to power our elders can work things out with them. The Americans are disrespectful."

Al-Jazeera has video coverage from a village nears the attacks:

The Associated Presslooks at the latest conflicting reports on the number of US soldiers possibly involved:

Some Afghan officials and local villagers expressed doubt that a single U.S. soldier could have carried out all the killings in houses about a mile (2 kilometers) apart and burned the bodies afterward.

"It is not possible for only one American soldier to come out of his base, kill a number of people far away, burn the bodies, go to another house and kill civilians there, then walk at least 2 kilometers and enter another house, kill civilians and burn them," said Ayubi.

Some villagers also told officials there were multiple soldiers and heard shooting from different directions. But many others said they only saw a single soldier.

Cummings, the U.S. military spokesman, also said, "There's no indication that there was more than one shooter."

The Afghan defense ministry said Monday that its initial reports indicate one soldier carried out the attacks, but they left open the possibility there could have been be more.

"The Afghan defense ministry requests a trial for the perpetrator or perpetrators of this attack," said a statement.

And the New York Timesadds:

In Panjwai, a reporter for The New York Times who inspected bodies that had been taken to the nearby American military base counted 16 dead, including five children with single gunshot wounds to the head, and saw burns on some of the children's legs and heads. "All the family members were killed, the dead put in a room, and blankets were put over the corpses and they were burned," said Anar Gula, an elderly neighbor who rushed to the house after the soldier had left. "We put out the fire."

Relatives said the bodies of two women showed stab wounds and that some of the women were shot as they ran from room to room to try to avoid the gunman. Among the dead at the base, a man aged about 50 had a single gunshot wound to his chest.

The villagers also brought some of the burned blankets on motorbikes to display at the base, Camp Belambay, in Kandahar, and show that the bodies had been set alight. Soon, more than 300 people had gathered outside to protest.

At least five Afghans were wounded in the attacks, officials said, some of them seriously, indicating the death toll could rise. NATO said several casualties were being treated at a military hospital.

One of the survivors from the attacks, Abdul Hadi, 40, said he was at home when a soldier broke down the door.

"My father went out to find out what was happening, and he was killed," he said. "I was trying to go out and find out about the shooting, but someone told me not to move, and I was covered by the women in my family in my room, so that is why I survived."


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