Sunday, March 11, 2012

Official: US service member opened fire on Afghans

A U.S. service member walked out of his base in southern Afghanistan on Sunday and started shooting Afghan civilians, the provincial governor said.

People were both killed and wounded in the early morning shooting spree in Panjwai district of Kandahar province, Gov. Tooryalai Wesa said, though he did not provide numbers.

"The incident happened. There are some people killed, some wounded. But I don't have the details," Wesa said in a phone interview. He said a group of officials had gone to the base to determine exactly what happened.

NATO forces spokesman Justin Brockhoff said a U.S. service member had been detained as the alleged shooter but did not provide details on the incident. He said the coalition had reports of "multiple wounded" but none killed. The wounded were receiving treatment at NATO medical facilities, he said.

The service member was being held at a NATO base and U.S. forces are investigating the shooting in cooperation with Afghan authorities, Brockhoff said. He said it was not clear if the alleged shooter knew the victims.

The shooting comes after weeks of tense relations between U.S. forces and their Afghan hosts following the burning of Qurans and other religious materials at an American base. Though U.S. officials apologized and said the burning was an accident, the incident sparked violent protests and attacks that killed some 30 people. Six U.S. troops have been killed in attacks by their Afghan colleagues since the Quran burnings came to light.

Meanwhile, a prominent Afghan women's rights activist said gunmen attacked her office in a western province in an apparent assassination attempt.

Malalai Joya, a former Afghan lawmaker and vocal critic of both the Taliban and of criminality in the Afghan government, said the attack on her office in Farah province was the sixth attempt on her life to date.

Armed men tried to storm the compound before dawn on Saturday, she said. The attackers did not get into the building but two of her guards were seriously injured and are currently in the hospital.

Joya said she was in Kabul at the time but had planned a trip to Farah soon and news of that may have leaked out. She said she believes the attackers thought she was in the building.

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