A US soldier who went on a shooting spree that killed 16 villagers in their homes should be put on public trial in Afghanistan, the parliament has said, as the Taliban vowed revenge.
“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,” the lower house of parliament said in statement.
Condemning the killings as “brutal and inhuman”, parliament declared that “people are running out of patience over the ignorance of foreign forces”.
The US soldier walked off his base, heavily armed and with night vision equipment, and broke into three village homes before dawn Sunday, killing 16 people including women and children, according to Western and Afghan sources.
He is in US custody and is subject to US military law, rather than Afghan law.
President Barack Obama telephoned Afghan President Hamid Karzai to promise a speedy investigation into the killings, which fanned already smouldering anger among Afghans over the burning of Korans at a US military base last month.
Sunday’s massacre poses an acute test of the US-Afghan alliance, as the two countries pursue difficult talks on securing a strategic pact to govern their partnership once foreign combat troops leave Afghanistan in 2014.
“When Afghan people are killed deliberately by US forces, this action is murder and terror and an unforgivable action,” Karzai said.
Col Richard Kemp, the Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, warned British troops could be killed in reprisal attacks.
He said the massacre, including nine children and three women, will also cause an erosion of the vital trust allied forces have built up with Afghan civilians over the course of the war.
American troops and nationals in Afghanistan have been placed on high alert and were told to expect reprisals in response to the killings, an emergency statement on the website of the US embassy in Kabul said. Restrictions were also placed on the movement of embassy personnel in the South.
The warning was issued as Taliban insurgents vowed revenge attacks against “sick-minded American savages” after an unnamed US staff sergeant left his base and shot at families as they slept.
Colonel Kemp said the attack had put the lives of British troops at risk.
“One of the most important things that our forces do day-to-day in Afghanistan is to build up trust with the local people and get them to turn against the Taliban and provide extremely important intelligence that enables us to take the Taliban networks apart,” he told ITV’s Daybreak.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for several attacks last month that the group said were retaliation for the Americans burning Korans. Afghan forces also turned their guns on their supposed allies at the time, killing six U.S. troops as violent protests wracked the country.
It’s unclear whether there will be a similar response to Sunday’s shootings. But the attack will likely spark even greater distrust between Washington and Kabul and fuel questions in both countries about why American troops are still fighting in Afghanistan after 10 years of conflict and the killing of Osama bin Laden.
The Taliban said in a statement on their website that “sick-minded American savages” committed the “blood-soaked and inhumane crime” 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.”
Afghans have also expressed doubt that a single US soldier could have shot and killed the 16 civilians.
The US military has said there is no indication that more than one soldier carried out the attacks in two villages in Kandahar province before dawn Sunday. But villagers told Afghan officials they heard shots being fired from several directions.