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Afghans attacked at US killing site

Taliban militants opened fire on an Afghan government delegation visiting one of the two villages in southern Afghanistan where a US soldier is suspected of killing 16 civilians.

The gun attack killed an Afghan soldier who was providing security for the delegation, said General Abdul Razaq, the police chief for Kandahar province where the visit took place. Another Afghan soldier and a military prosecutor were injured in the attack, he said.

The attack in Balandi village came as the Taliban vowed to kill and behead those responsible for killing 16 Afghan civilians on Sunday.

The delegation, which included two of President Hamid Karzai's brothers and other senior officials, was holding a memorial service in a mosque for victims when the shooting started.

One of the president's brothers, Qayum Karzai, said: "We were giving them our condolences, then we heard two very, very light shots. Then we assumed that it was the national army that started to fire in the air."

The US is holding in custody an Army staff sergeant, who is suspected of carrying out the killings before dawn on Sunday in two villages close to his base in Panjwai district, considered the birthplace of the Taliban.

Villagers have described him stalking from house to house in the middle of the night, opening fire on sleeping families and then burning some of the bodies of the dead.

Hundreds of students in eastern Afghanistan joined protests against the United States and the soldier in the first significant response to the tragedy.

The killings have caused outrage in Afghanistan but have not sparked the kind of violent protests seen last month after American soldiers burned Muslim holy books and other Islamic texts.

The more muted response could be a result of Afghans being used to dealing with civilian casualties in over a decade of war. Some have said the slayings in Panjwai were more in keeping with Afghans' experience of deadly night raids and air strikes by US-led forces than the Koran burnings were.


From Belfast Telegraph