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Afghans mourn shooting victims; Taliban calls for vengeance on U.S.

March 12, 2012 |  6:10 am

 

REPORTING FROM KABUL, AFGHANISTAN -- Prayers and muffled sobs filled the air Monday during remembrances by Afghan villagers for 16 of their neighbors, nine of them children, who were killed a day earlier during a shooting rampage allegedly carried out by an American soldier.

In the capital, Kabul, parliament passed a resolution condemning the "brutal and inhuman" act by the accused assailant, identified by the U.S. military as a sergeant who acted alone in his attack on civilians near his base in Kandahar province. He tossed blankets atop the bodies of those he had killed and tried to burn them, villagers said.

Afghan lawmakers demanded a public trial inside the country for the American soldier, who remained under interrogation by military investigators. U.S. officials said the alleged assailant would face military justice rather than being tried in Afghan courts, in keeping with usual military practice.

PHOTOS: Afghanistan shooting

The Taliban, meanwhile, vowed vengeance on Western troops in Afghanistan and scoffed at reports that the alleged attacker might be mentally ill.

"Is there any military … in the entire world which gives legality for unstable persons to be armed and drafted into the military and then be given the duty of so-called peacekeeping?" the group asked on its website.

In keeping with Islamic custom, villagers buried the dead, including the small, shrouded bodies of the children, within hours of Sunday's attack. But mourners staged solemn processions and condolence ceremonies Monday, said Sardar Mohammad Nazari, the chief of police in Panjwayi district, where the killings took place.

He said tribal elders and community leaders had called for calm. "We asked the people to show restraint and then sent them back to their homes," he said.

Aides to President Hamid Karzai, who on Sunday called the attack on civilians unforgivable, spent most of Sunday night on the phone with tribal elders and influential local figures, urging against violent demonstrations like those that followed the burning of copies of the Koran at a U.S. military base last month. Those demonstrations left more than 30 people dead, including six U.S. soldiers killed by Afghan forces while the weeklong protests raged.

The Western military promised that the slaughter of the villagers -- the war's worst atrocity carried out deliberately by a lone soldier -- would not go unpunished.

"We pledge to the noble people of Afghanistan our commitment to a rapid and thorough investigation," German army Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobson, a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force told reporters Monday in Kabul. "This deeply appalling incident in no way represents the values of ISAF and coalition troops, or the abiding respect we feel for the Afghan people."

Jacobson and other Western officials also insisted that the killings would not derail U.S.-Afghan talks on a pact governing the long-term American presence in Afghanistan. 

ALSO:

Killings harm a tense U.S.-Afghan alliance

Analysis: Slayings are a setback to U.S. exit plans

Obama is 'deeply saddened' by killing of Afghan civilians

-- Laura King

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