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Haji Abdul Ghani, a tribal elder from the area of Panjwai district where the shooting spree occurred, warned that the U.S. move would cause “people to rise up and increase the hostility between Afghanistan and America.”

Members of a high-level delegation sent by Mr. Karzai to investigate the killings largely have prevented demonstrations so far by calling tribal leaders and urging them to calm down locals, said Afghan officials and villagers.

There has only been one significant protest since the killings. About 1,000 students demonstrated Tuesday in the eastern city of Jalalabad, shouting anti-American slogans and burning an effigy of President Obama.

U.S. officials have expressed shock and sadness over Sunday’s killings and have promised a thorough investigation. But they have resisted calls both at home and in Afghanistan to speed up the withdrawal of American troops in the wake of the tragedy.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta visited Afghanistan on Wednesday, the first American official to visit the country since the shootings.

As his plane was about to land at a British airfield in the country’s south, an Afghan man attempted to ram a stolen truck into a group of U.S. Marines at a ramp, then crashed it and exited the vehicle in flames.

Gen. Scaparotti, the deputy U.S. commander, told reporters traveling with Mr. Panetta in Kabul that he believed the man — an interpreter working for foreign forces — had tried to attack the Marines and that it would have been difficult for him to know which plane the defense secretary was aboard.

Mr. Panetta told reporters he doesn’t believe he was the target. He was told on the plane that it was being diverted to another landing site but he was not aware of the truck incident until later. No one in Mr. Panetta’s party was hurt.

The man who stole the vehicle died Thursday of extensive burns, Gen. Scaparotti said. Authorities were not able to talk to or get any information from him before he died.

A U.S. military official said a British soldier was injured when he tried to stop the man from stealing the truck on the base. The Afghan man hit the British soldier with the truck as he was driving away. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the incident is still being investigated.

A military dog at the airfield chased the speeding truck and is believed to have suffered minor burns while trying to pull the driver out of the vehicle, according to a U.S. defense official.

The U.S. Army staff sergeant accused of carrying out the shooting spree in Kandahar has been identified as a married, 38-year-old father of two who was trained as a sniper and served three tours in Iraq, where he recently suffered a head injury.

The U.S. has not released his name partly because of security concerns for the individual and his family, Gen. Scaparotti said.

The U.S. soldier allegedly slipped out of his small base in southern Afghanistan before dawn Sunday, crept into three houses and shot men, women and children at close range, then burned some of the bodies. By sunrise, there were 16 corpses.

The suspect was taken into custody shortly afterward.

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