Afghan families are vowing vengeance for loved ones killed when an American soldier apparently went on a rampage, shooting at least 16 civilians dead, including nine children. "All my family is dead," Nazim Shah told the Independent. "We will get revenge on those who killed my family. We won't let this rest." Afghan officials are urging restraint as an investigation continues, but grief-stricken residents of the Panjwai district where the shootings occurred and their countrymen are seething with fury after the soldier shot men, women, and children, then piled up their bodies and set them aflame, according to reports. A stunned President Obama has apologized to Hamid Karzai for the "tragic and shocking" killings.
The lone soldier believed responsible has not yet been identified, and officials are attempting to determine what triggered the rampage. The man, thought to be a staff sergeant, turned himself into US military custody after the killings, reports the BBC. The shootings come just days after protests rocked Afghanistan in the wake of the accidental burning of Korans by US soldiers. The fury triggered by both situations threatens to unravel months of battles and US goals. The killings are expected to embolden hard-line forces within the Taliban and strengthen their hand in Afghanistan. “The fear,” one American military official tells the New York Times, “is that all these incidents, taken together, play into the Taliban’s account of how we treat the Afghan religion and people. And while we all know that’s a false account—think how many the Taliban have killed, and never once taken responsibility—it’s a very hard perception to combat.”