In Afghan and regional media, the most pressing question about the horrific killings of 16 Afghan civilians, allegedly by a rogue U.S. soldier, is whether the shooter acted alone. Today, Afghan officials said that nine of the 16 victims were children and some of the bodies were charred. In an interview with Fox News, Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby said the suspected shooter is a father in his mid-thirties who had been deployed to Iraq twice.
Questions remain. This morning, Afghanistan's largest online news portal, Khaarma Press, reported that the killings have brought U.S.-Afghan relations to an "all-time low" with President Hamid Karzai issuing an "angry statement" denouncing the "unforgivable action." Afghan lawmakers have begun raising doubts that just one man carried out the killings. "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 Abdul Rahim Ayubi, a lawmaker from Kandahar province. He noted that the houses targeted were more than one mile apart. Kandahar parliamentarian Mullah Sayed Mohammed Akhund told The Wall Street Journal that local villagers witnessed more than one solider during the night and Afghan soldiers said they heard simultaneous shootings coming from different locations. While U.S. officials insisted that there's no evidence suggesting more than one shooter was involved, The Journal notes that the U.S. Embassy in Kabul seemed to open the possibility that additional accomplices could be involved, issuing a statement saying that "the individual or individuals responsible for this act will be identified and brought to justice."
A trial In a dispatch from Kabul, the Pakistani newspaper Dawn reports the Afghan parliament is demanding a public trial in Afghanistan for the U.S. soldier or soldiers involved. According to reports, the U.S. soldier was heavily-armed and walked off the base with night-vision goggles, breaking into three homes in the methodical killing spree. “We seriously demand and expect that the government of the United States punish the culprits and try them in a public trial before the people of Afghanistan,” Afghanistan's lower house of Parliament said in statement.
Boiling resentment With an assist from Agence France-Presse, Dawn reports on further resentment from Afghan citizens. At the scene of the killings one woman screamed, "May God kill the only son of Karzai, so he feels what we feel.” For his part, Karzai has said: “The government and the people of Afghanistan demand an explanation from the United States government of this incident." The Taliban, meanwhile, have vowed to avenge the deaths of the citizens in a statement on their website condemning the "sick-minded American savages" who carried out the attack. Calling the massacre a "blood-soaked and inhumane crime," the group said it would "take revenge from the invaders and the savage murders for every single martyr."
Calls for an early exit The killings have also sparked calls for a swift U.S. exit from the country, reports Reuters. "We have benefited little from the foreign troops here but lost everything - our lives, dignity, and our country to them," a Kandahar shop owner told the news service. Diplomatically, the main problem a new uprising poses is the collapse of a partnership agreement with Kabul and Washington for the departure of foreign troops in 2014. A university student says, "The Americans said they will leave in 2014. They should leave now so we can live in peace." The 19-year-old adds, "Even if the Taliban return to power our elders can work things out with them. The Americans are disrespectful."
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