13 Mar 2012

Taliban vows revenge for US soldier's killing spree

10:13 pm on 13 March 2012

The Taliban has vowed to carry out revenge attacks, including threatening to beheading US troops, for the rampage by an American soldier in Afghanistan who shot 16 people.

The victims, nine of them children, were shot in their homes before dawn.

The incident has put more strain on relations between Afghans and foreign forces led by the United States.

The Afghan parliament has passed a strongly worded resolution saying civilians have lost patience with foreign troops and calling for the soldier to be tried publicly in an Afghan court.

This is despite Afghanistan's agreement with Nato that foreign soldiers accused of crimes should be tried in their own countries.

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta says the soldier could face the death penalty if convicted.

The Pentagon chief says the soldier would be brought to justice under the US military legal code, which allows for execution in some cases.

Mr Panetta condemned the incident as a "terrible loss of life" and said it remained unclear what may have led the gunman to murder civilians.

US president Barack Obama says the killings will not change US strategy in the country.

Mr Obama says it is important to ensure that US troops do not remain in Afghanistan any longer than they have to but warned against an early exit, saying they must be pulled out in a responsible way.

In Britain, the latest poll suggests that 73% of people want British troops to withdraw.

But Prime Minister David Cameron says the troops still have a job to do.

The United States and its Nato allies are looking to withdraw their 130,000 combat troops from Afghanistan by 2014.

May have been drunk or had breakdown

Details are still unclear, but the soldier apparently left his base in the southern province of Kandahar in the early hours of Sunday, walked into several houses and shot and killed 16 people, mostly women and children.

One witness says she saw him drag a woman out of her house and repeatedly hit her head against a wall.

Officials have offered no explanation for the shootings, but reports suggest the soldier might have been drunk, or had had a nervous breakdown.

He turned himself in to the military authorities after returning to base.

US officials say the staff sergeant, in his 30s, is married with three children. Defence officials say he was from the conventional army, not special forces, and had served three times in Iraq, though this is his first tour of duty in Afghanistan.

The Defence Department says he was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury two years ago, following an accident in Iraq in which his vehicle rolled over. After an operation, however, he was found fit for duty.

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