Karzai: American killed 16 Afghan civilians in shooting rampage

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The attack took place in two villages in the Panjwai district of southern Kandahar province. The villages — Balandi and Alkozai — are about 500 yards away from a U.S. base. The shooting started around 3 a.m., said Asadullah Khalid, the government representative for southern Afghanistan and a member of the delegation that went to investigate the incident.

A resident of the village of Alkozai, Abdul Baqi, told the AP that, based on accounts of his neighbors, the American gunman went into three different houses and opened fire.

“When it was happening in the middle of the night, we were inside our houses. I heard gunshots and then silence and then gunshots again,” Mr. Baqi said.

International forces have fought for control of Panjwai for years as they’ve tried to subdue the Taliban in their rural strongholds. The Taliban movement started just to the north of Panjwai, and many of the militant group’s senior leaders, including chief Mullah Omar, were born, raised, fought or preached in the area. Mullah Omar once ran an Islamic school in an area of Panjwai that has since been carved into a new district.

In addition to its symbolic significance, the district is an important base for the Taliban to use to target neighboring Kandahar city. Panjwai was seen as key to securing Kandahar city to east when U.S. forces flooded the province as part of President Obama’s strategy to surge in the south starting in 2009.

Mr. Karzai said he was sending a high-level delegation to investigate and deliver a full report.

Twelve of the dead were from Balandi, said Samad Khan, a farmer who lost all 11 members of his family, including women and children. Mr. Khan was away from the village when the incident occurred and returned to find his family members shot and burned. One of his neighbors also was killed, he said. It was unclear how or why the bodies were burned.

“This is an anti-human and anti-Islamic act,” Mr. Khan said. “Nobody is allowed in any religion in the world to kill children and women.”

Mr. Khan demanded that Mr. Karzai punish the American shooter.

“Otherwise, we will make a decision,” Mr. Khan said. “He should be handed over to us.”

Residents in Alkozai also demanded that Mr. Karzai punish the American or hand him over to the villagers. The four people killed in the village were all from one family, said a female relative who was shouting in anger. She did not give her name because of the conservative nature of local society.

“No Taliban were here. No gunbattle was going on,” said the woman. “We don’t know why this foreign soldier came and killed our innocent family members. Either he was drunk or he was enjoying killing civilians.”

The Taliban called the shootings the latest sign that international forces are working against the Afghan people.

“The so-called American peacekeepers have once again quenched their thirst with the blood of innocent Afghan civilians in Kandahar province,” the Taliban said in a statement posted on a website used by the insurgent group.

U.S. forces have been implicated in other violence in the same area.

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