(ISLAMABAD) — The Taliban has vowed revenge against “sick-minded American savages” after a U.S. soldier was accused of going on a deadly shooting rampage early Sunday morning.
The group said it would “take revenge from the invaders and the savage murderers for every single martyr,” according to a statement posted on its website, the Times of London reported.
An Army veteran of three tours in Iraq who left his base in the middle of the night is suspected of methodically killing 16 Afghan civilians, most of them children and women.
The soldier’s name has not been released, but a U.S. official told ABC News he is a 38-year-old staff sergeant who is married with two children. He is apparently based at Fort Lewis in Washington state and was on his first tour in Afghanistan.
The soldier wore night-vision goggles during the alleged rampage and has “lawyered up” and declined to talk, according to a source.
The fear now is that this latest incident could set off a fresh wave of violence. The attack comes just as outrage stemming from burning of several Korans by members of the U.S. military seemed to be calming down.
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul has warned foreigners to keep a low profile.
The shooting took place at 3 a.m. Sunday in two villages in the Panjwai district of southern Kandahar province, a hotbed for the Taliban insurgency against U.S .forces. The two villages are a short walk away from the U.S. base where the soldier was stationed.
Nine of the victims were children, and three were women, all shot while they slept in their beds, according to villagers and the Afghan president’s office.
After the alleged shooting spree, it’s believed the soldier returned to the base on his own, and calmly turned himself in. He remains in NATO custody.
It’s unclear whether the soldier knew the victims or whether the alleged attack was spontaneous and unprovoked. It’s also unknown whether he had any accomplices.
The Afghan parliament has passed a resolution in protest of the killings, and asked for a public trial of the U.S. soldier.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Arwa Damon, Waffa Munayyer and Bryony Jones, CNN
KJ Kwon and Ben Westcott, CNN
Lorenzo D'Agostino and Hilary Clarke, CNN