16 Afghans Reportedly Stalked, Killed by U.S. Army Sergeant

Residents sat with the bodies of shooting victims in the Panjwai district of southern Afghanistan.(Mustafa Khan/European Pressphoto Agency)

The New York Times is reporting that a United States Army sergeant went door to door in a rural part of southern Afghanistan methodically killing 16 civilians among them nine children and three women.

Residents of three villages in the Panjwai district of Kandahar Province described a terrifying string of attacks in which the soldier, who had walked more than a mile from his base, tried door after door, eventually breaking in to kill within three separate houses. At the first, the man gathered 11 bodies, including those of four girls younger than 6, and set fire to them, villagers said.

A report in the Washington Post quotes Pentagon officials as saying that the attack is the act of one soldier who was from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. and assigned to a special operations team.

Villagers described cowering in fear as gunshots rang out as a soldier roamed from house to house firing on those inside. They said he entered three homes in all and set fire to some of the bodies. Eleven of the dead were from a single family, and nine of the victims were children.

U.S. officials said the shooter, identified as an Army staff sergeant, acted alone, leaving his base in southern Afghanistan and opening fire on sleeping families in two villages. Initial reports indicated he returned to the base after the shooting and turned himself in. He was in custody at a NATO base in Afghanistan.

U.S. Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta has issued a written apology and personally called Afghanistan President Karzai.

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