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Afghan officials say Western forces shot dead 16 civilians including nine children in southern Kandahar province on Sunday in a rampage that witnesses said was carried out by American soldiers who were laughing and appeared drunk.
Only one U.S. soldier appeared to have been involved in the shootings, a U.S. official in Washington said, but that is not what witnesses were saying
“When shooting was heard our dog started running. They killed him and came inside the house and put everyone in a room, shot them and then set everything on fire. Among those killed were four boys and four girls.”
Some witnesses said more than one soldier was involved, but Afghan President Hamid Karzai in a statement cited only one shooter in what he called "an assassination," adding that nine of the dead were children, and three were women.
Some residents said they believed there were multiple attackers, given the carnage.
"One man can't kill so many people. There must have been many people involved," Bacha Agha of Balandi village told The Associated Press. "If the government says this is just one person's act we will not accept it. ... After killing those people they also burned the bodies."
In a statement, Afghan President Hamid Karzai left open the possibility of more than one shooter. He initially spoke of a single U.S. gunman, then referred to "American forces" entering houses. The statement quoted a 15-year-old survivor named Rafiullah, who was shot in the leg, as telling Karzai in a phone call that "soldiers" broke into his house, woke up his family and began shooting them.
Afghan officials also gave varying accounts of the number of shooters involved. Karzai's office released a statement quoting a villager as saying "American soldiers woke my family up and shot them in the face."
"They (Americans) poured chemicals over their dead bodies and burned them," Samad told Reuters at the scene.
Neighbors said they had awoken to crackling gunfire from American soldiers, who they described as laughing and drunk.
"They were all drunk and shooting all over the place," said neighbor Agha Lala, who visited one of the homes where killings took place.
.Only one U.S. soldier appeared to have been involved in the shootings, a U.S. official in Washington said, but that is not what witnesses were saying.
Agha, 20, said American soldiers who had opened fire in the early hours entered the family home and waited in silence for what seemed an eternity. He lay on the floor, pretending to be dead.
"The Americans stayed in our house for a while. I was very scared," he told Reuters.
"My mother was shot in her eye and her face. She was unrecognisable. My brother was shot in the head and chest and my sister was killed, too."
Agha's account of multiple American soldiers shooting villagers could not be immediately verified.
Another witness, Agha Lala, who is in his 40s, said he was awoken by gunfire at about 2 a.m.
"I watched them from a wall for a while. Then they opened fire on me. The bullets hit the wall. They were laughing. They did not seem normal. It was like they were drunk," he said.
After rushing to his home and hiding all night, Lala, who is no relation to Jan Agha, went to check on the neighbours.