- Associated Press - Monday, March 12, 2012

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan man recounted on Monday the harrowing scene in his home as a lone U.S. soldier allegedly moved stealthily through it during a killing spree, then crouched down and shot the man’s father in the thigh as he emerged from the bedroom in the deep of night.

The soldier, now in U.S. custody, is accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians in their homes overnight between Saturday and Sunday and then burning some of their corpses. Afghan President Hamid Karzai said nine of those killed were children and three were women.

“He was walking around taking up positions in the house — in two or three places like he was searching,” said 26-year-old witness Mohammad Zahir, who watched the gunman while hiding in another room. “He was on his knees when he shot my father” in the thigh, he told the Associated Press. His father survived.

Even before the shootings, anti-Americanism was boiling in Afghanistan over the burning of Muslim holy books, including Korans, by U.S. troops last month on an American base. The burnings came to light soon after a video purporting to show four Marines urinating on Taliban corpses was posted on the Internet in January.

Now, another wave of anti-foreigner hatred could threaten the entire future of the U.S.-led coalition’s mission in Afghanistan. The recent events not only have infuriated the Afghan people and leaders but also have raised doubts among U.S. political figures that the long and costly war is worth the sacrifice in lives and money.

NATO and member countries said that the slayings are a blow to the alliance’s efforts to cultivate trust but that it will not affect the timeline to hand over security operations by the end of 2014.

Mr. Zahir described the scene that unfolded when the assailant came to his house before dawn.

“I heard a gunshot. When I came out of my room, somebody entered our house. He was in a NATO forces uniform. I didn’t see his face because it was dark,” he said.

Mr. Zahir said he quickly went into another room in the house where animals are penned.

“After that, I saw him moving to different areas of the house — like he was searching,” he said.

His father, unarmed, then took a few steps out of his bedroom door, Mr. Zahir recalled.

“He was not holding anything — not even a cup of tea,” Mr. Zahir said. Then the intruder fired.

“My mother was pulling my father into the room. I put a cloth on his wound,” he said.

After the gunman left, Mr. Zahir said he heard gunshots near the house again. He stayed in hiding for a few minutes to make sure he was gone.

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