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Taliban vows revenge over massacre

The Taliban has vowed revenge after at least one American soldier shot 16 civilians to death and burned their bodies in southern Afghanistan.

The attack has fuelled anger that is still simmering after US troops burned Korans last month.

US-led forces in Afghanistan have stepped up security following Sunday's shootings in Kandahar province out of concern about retaliatory attacks. The US embassy has also warned American citizens in Afghanistan about the possibility of reprisals.

The Taliban said in a statement on its website that "sick-minded American savages" committed the "blood-soaked and inhumane crime" in two villages in Panjwai district, a rural region outside Kandahar that is the cradle of the Taliban and where coalition forces have fought for control for years.

The militant group promised the families of the victims that it would take revenge "for every single martyr with the help of Allah".

The US said the shootings in two villages were carried out by a single American soldier, who is now in custody. But Afghans have expressed doubt that a single soldier could have carried out the shootings in houses more than a mile apart.

Villagers described cowering in fear as a soldier roamed from house to house firing on those inside. They said he entered three homes and set fire to some of the bodies. Eleven of the dead were from a single family, and nine of the victims were children.

US officials said the gunman, identified as an army staff sergeant, acted alone, leaving his base in southern Afghanistan and opening fire on sleeping families in two villages.

Initial reports indicated he returned to the base after the shooting and turned himself in. He was in custody at a Nato base in Afghanistan.

The suspect, from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, was assigned to support a special operations unit of either green berets or navy Seals engaged in a village stability operation, a US official said.

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