President Barack Obama’s administration may be confronting the most inflammatory act of Afghanistan's surge after a U.S. soldier left his base and killed an unknown number of civilians in Kandahar province. The BBC reports that the soldier in question appeared to suffer a “nervous breakdown” in the middle of the night, or the Pentagon could be engaging in misinformation to cover an intentional act of violence. In either case NATO has admitted to the 3 AM shooting without offering details.
Spokesman Justin Brockhoff, told Al Jazeera, “This is a horrific incident, and our thoughts are with the families of the affected. Our initial reports indicate multiple civilians - between four and six- are wounded. Those civilians are receiving care at coalition medical facilities.”
He reported no casualties.
Information is swarming around Panjway district, located southwest of Kandahar City, but Afghans describe a more gruesome scene. Zalmai Ayoubi, spokesman for the governor, said a “NATO individual came out of the base with his weapon, entered into a house, opened fire and killed three people. For the moment, we are confirming the death of three civilians.” One witness from Belandi village told The New York Times that “an American soldier stormed into three houses, killing four civilians and injuring six other civilians, including women and children. We don’t know why he killed people.”
Ayoubi later revised his statement to 10 civilians killed and six wounded, while another resident in Alkozai (the scene of the shooting) claimed to have spoken with the family members of the deceased. Abdul Baqi told an Associated Press reporter that 16 people were killed in three different houses. With helicopters circling overhead, a member of the Kandahar provincial investigation told Al Jazeera that at least 17 civilians were killed early Sunday morning.
Protests have already begun in Panjway and the incident will prove especially useful to the Taliban’s propaganda campaign in Kandahar. The shooting, of course, follows the controversial burning of several dozen Qurans at Bagram Airfield. If a quarter of the newest reports are true, the White House needs all the dirt in southern Afghanistan to put out the fire.