An American soldier opened fire on civilians in southern Afghanistan shortly before dawn on Sunday, killing at least 16 people according to an Associated Press photographer who counted the bodies.
At least five people were wounded as well in the attack on two villages near the US base in Kandahar.
President Hamid Karzai, the Afghan leader with whom relations have already been chilling amidst statements Afghanistan would back Pakistan over the United States, called the shootings “an assassination” and demanded an explanation.
According to the AP, the unidentified soldier fired indiscriminately, killing women and children.
There has been a widening rift between US servicemen and Afghans following the burning of Korans, the Muslim holy book, several weeks ago. The burnings resulted in violence and protests, including attacks that killed six Americans.
Lt. Gen. Adrian Bradshaw, the deputy commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, apologized for the shooting.
“I wish to convey my profound regrets and dismay at the actions apparently taken by one coalition member in Kandahar province,” Bradshaw said in a statement. “One of our soldiers is reported to have killed and injured a number of civilians in villages adjacent to his base. I cannot explain the motivation behind such callous acts.”
NATO spokesman Justin Brockhoff told the AP that the alleged shooter was captured and is being detained at a NATO base.
The attack took place in two village, Balandi and Alkozai, about 500 yards away from the US base.
In one of the most brutal details to emerge so far, 12 of those killed were from Balandi, including all 11 members of a farmer named Samad Khan’s family, the AP reported.
This morning, Afghans are calling for justice and retribution against the man who allegedly burst into their homes and committed a truly heinous acts of war crime.