Delegation visiting Afghan massacre site fired on, killing guard

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REPORTING FROM KABUL, AFGHANISTAN -- Suspected insurgents fired automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades at a government delegation offering condolences Tuesday to villagers in a district of Kandahar province where a U.S. soldier is accused of going on a shooting rampage.


No one in the delegation, which included two brothers of President Hamid Karzai and a number of high-level officials, was injured, but a member of the Afghan security forces was killed and another was wounded, witnesses and officials said.

Members of the delegation, which also included the Afghan army chief of staff, a Cabinet minister and the Kandahar governor, had just emerged from a mosque in Panjwayi district when gunfire erupted, officials said. Karzai’s elder brother, Abdul Qayoom Karzai, said the late-morning attack briefly caused chaos but the group returned safely to Kandahar city, about 20 miles away.

PHOTOS: Afghanistan shooting

Earlier, delegation members met with the families of victims of Sunday’s attack, which the U.S. military said was carried out by a soldier acting alone and without authorization. Nine of the 16 dead were children.

In what would be the most serious atrocity deliberately committed by a member of the U.S. military in 10 years of warfare, officials said the suspect went methodically from house to house, shooting some victims point-blank and gunning down others as they tried to flee.

[Updated, 9:15 a.m. March 13: The Taliban movement, which has been issuing daily statements since Sunday denouncing the Panjwayi attack, made its harshest threat yet toward U.S. forces on Tuesday, vowing to ‘behead your sadistic, murderous soldiers in every part of the country.’]

Relatives of the dead responded angrily when delegation members assured them that the assailant would be brought to justice, and angrily brushed off suggestions that he was a deranged individual not responsible for his actions. U.S. officials have said the soldier in custody, a 38-year-old father of two, had suffered a head injury during a tour in Iraq.

Although Sunday’s shootings have not triggered mass protests like those last month that followed the accidental burning of copies of the Koran at a U.S. military base, several hundred people rallied Tuesday in the eastern city of Jalalabad -- the first substantial demonstration in the wake of the killings in Panjwayi.

Stoking public anger, grisly photos of the shooting victims have been shown on Afghan television and have appeared on social media sites.

In Jalalabad, protesters shouted, ‘Death to America!’ and burned an effigy of President Obama.

-- Laura King


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