A US soldier has killed at least 16 civilians after opening fire on them near a US military base in Kandahar. There are nine children among the victims, Afghan authorities say.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai qualified the incident as an “assassination” and demanded an explanation from Washington, reports the Associated Press.
"This is an assassination, an intentional killing of innocent civilians and cannot be forgiven," Karzai said in a statement.
US defense secretary Leon Panetta has condemned the Afghanistan shooting and offered his condolences to President Karzai.
The White House has also issued a statement expressing its concern over the incident.
"We are deeply concerned by the initial reports of this incident and are monitoring the situation closely," said White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden.
An official from the Panjwai district of Kandahar told The New York Times that the US soldier broke into three houses near the military base, killing 11 in the first and four in the second. He wounded a further five.
According to one of the villagers the soldier acted alone and there was no fighting, adding that one of the houses raided belonged to a tribal elder.
The serviceman allegedly handed himself in to US authorities following the incident. The motive behind the attack remains unclear.
NATO forces spokesman Capt. Justin Brockhoff has confirmed that a US serviceman has been detained and is currently being held at a military base pending a joint US-Afghan investigation into the "deeply regrettable incident.”
The suspect has been identified as an Army staff sergeant from Fort Lewis, Washington, the Associated Press reports, citing US officials.
Brockhoff said those wounded in the incident were receiving treatment at a NATO medical facility.
Friction has been building between the allied forces and Afghan government after US soldiers burned copies of the Koran triggering uproar throughout the country last month.
The ensuing protests killed 30 people, including six American soldiers.
US President Obama made a formal apology to the people of Afghanistan for what NATO dubbed a “tragic blunder.”
NATO Secretary General Anders Gogh Rasmussen has extended his “heartfelt condolences” to the families of the victims and the Afghan people and government.
"I want to express my shock and sadness at the tragic shooting incident in Kandahar province, where it is reported that several people, including women and children, have been killed or wounded," he said in a statement on Sunday.
The US embassy in Kabul warns of anti-American reprisals. After Americans burnt Muslim holy books on a base in Afghanistan in February, some 30 people, including six US service members, died in violence that has only just begun to calm down.
NATO pulled out all of its advisors from Afghan government organizations after two US officers were shot dead by an Afghan colleague.
Violence between the two allied forces has been on the up recently with 18 per cent of the 60 NATO personnel deaths this year thought to be the work of Afghan compatriots.
Lindsey German from the Stop the War Coalition told RT the incident will certainly affect the US position in Afghanistan.
“The Americans will try to say well this is just an isolated incident but we have to remember there are 100,000 occupying troops there. There have been many demonstrations over the burning of the Koran and it is not just about offence of Islam it is also about the occupation itself,” she explained.
German also said that every night in Afghanistan up to 40 houses are looking for alleged terrorists.
“If this soldier is one of the many who have been involved in the raids, then it does raise many questions as to exactly how the Americans are treating the occupied population.”