(KABUL, Afghanistan) — An Afghan government delegation investigating the murders of 16 civilians by an American soldier came under attack Tuesday while visiting one of the crime scenes.
The delegation includes two brothers of Afghan President Hamid Karzi, senior officials from Kabul and at least a dozen journalists.
According to a cameraman for ABC News, who is traveling with the delegation, the officials were inside a mosque offering their condolences and prayers when they heard small and heavy arms fire. Security forces traveling with the group responded, exchanging fire with the militants for about 10 minutes.
No one was killed, according to the cameraman, who added that a few bullets hit the exterior of the mosque. It’s unclear it there were any injuries in the shooting.
Meanwhile, in another sign of rising anger over the murders, several hundred students held a demonstration in Jalalabad on Tuesday. A local eyewitness said the students were shouting that they can’t tolerate the crimes of the American forces in Afghanistan and that the Afghan government shouldn’t sign the long-term strategic partnership with the U.S.
Although the protest ended peacefully, it was the first major protest outside of the area where the massacre occurred.
The alleged shooter has been identified as a 38-year-old Army staff sergeant based at Fort Lewis in Washington state. After Sunday morning’s rampage, which left nine children and three women among the dead, the soldier is believed to have returned to his Kandahar base on his own and turned himself in.
The soldier has since lawyered up and is refusing to speak with investigators about what allegedly motivated him to gun down the civilians.
ABC News has learned that the soldier suffered a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) in 2010 while on deployment in Iraq. It is unclear if the injury could have played a role in Sunday’s massacre. Officials said he went through the advanced TBI treatment at Fort Lewis and was deemed to be fine.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Euan McKirdy and Marilia Brocchetto, CNN
Barbara Starr, CNN
Kevin Liptak, CNN