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Taliban vows revenge after killings

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Taliban is vowing revenge against the U.S. after an American soldier allegedly shot and killed 16 Afghan civilians in a Sunday rampage. 

In a statement on their website, the militant group promised to "take revenge from the invaders and the savage murderers for every single martyr." 

They added "American savages" committed the "blood-soaked and inhumane crime."

"If the perpetrators of this massacre were in fact mentally ill then this testifies to yet another moral transgression by the American military because they are arming lunatics in Afghanistan who turn their weapons against the defenseless Afghans without giving a second thought," the statement said.

Afghan officials reported nine of the 16 victims were children and three were women. They said some of the bodies were also found to be charred. 

The veteran American army staff sergeant allegedly left his base in the Panjway district of Kandahar province and walked about a mile to a nearby village, where he went on a house-to-house rampage, methodically shooting Afghan civilians. 

U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan stepped up security following the shootings out of concern about retaliatory attacks. The U.S. Embassy has also warned American citizens in Afghanistan about the possibility of reprisals.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for several attacks last month that the group said were retaliation for the Americans burning Korans. Afghan forces also turned their guns on their supposed allies, killing six U.S. troops as violent protests wracked the country.

It's unclear whether there will be a similar response to Sunday's shootings. But the attack will likely spark even greater distrust between Washington and Kabul and fuel questions in both countries about why American troops are still fighting in Afghanistan after 10 years of conflict and the killing of Usama bin Laden.

Pentagon Spokesman Capt. John Kirby told Fox News in an interview Sunday that the shooter is in his mid-thirties and is a father. He was deployed to Iraq twice, but this was his first time being deployed to Iraq. 

He is based out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state, a base that was named "most troubled base in the military" in 2010 by Stars and Stripes magazine. 

Kirby said the soldier is in custody and is being questioned by investigators. 

Meanwhile, Afghan civilians and local lawmakers say they have their doubts as to whether a single soldier could have committed the massacre alone.

Abdul Rahim Ayubi, a lawmaker from Kandahar province, said the houses that were attacked were over a mile apart, raising questions about how a single soldier could have carried out all of the shootings.

"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.

Abdul Ghani, a local councilman in Panjwai district, said local villagers reported seeing two groups of soldiers.

"The villagers said they were hearing machine gun fire and pistol fire from different directions," said Ghani.

However, Kirby says they are "pretty confident" there was only one attacker.

"When it was noticed that the individual left the outpost, it was noticed and reported up the chain of command," he said. "The command did exactly the right thing. They took accounting of everybody they had at that outpost to make sure they knew were everybody was and there was only one person missing. That's how we know there really was only one individual involved in this."

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