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Gunmen Target Afghan Delegation Visiting Massacre Site

March 13, 2012

Suspected militants have fired on an Afghan government delegation visiting one of the villages where on Sunday a U.S. soldier allegedly murdered 16 civilians.

The attack Tuesday in Kandahar province killed an Afghan soldier and wounded at least one policeman.

No group has claimed responsibility for the shooting, but the Taliban has sworn revenge and vowed to behead Americans.

Also Tuesday, hundreds of people protested in Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan in the first significant public demonstration against Sunday's killings. Many of the marchers chanted "Death to America."

Despite the killings and the outrage, President Barack Obama says there will be no hasty U.S. retreat from Afghanistan.

In an interview with KABC television in Los Angeles Monday, the president cautioned against what he calls a "rush to the exits" which he says could lead to more chaos and disaster.

Obama said U.S. troops are on a path to leave Afghanistan responsibly by 2014. He said he expressed his condolences for the civilian killings to Afghan President Hamid Karzai and said U.S. authorities will bring the full weight of the law on the alleged gunman.

U.S. and Afghan officials say a U.S. soldier walked off his base and shot and killed civilians in their homes in the Panjwai district of southern Kandahar. Many of the victims were children. Villagers say he set some of the bodies on fire.

The Afghan parliament condemned the killings, urging the U.S. government to punish the culprits and put them on trial in a public court. Afghan lawmakers Monday said they have "run out of patience" with the lack of oversight of foreign soldiers.

NATO officials say the suspect is a U.S. Army staff sergeant who acted alone and turned himself in. The Pentagon has not released his name. But a U.S. official has told news agencies that he is a 38-year-old father of two and recently suffered a head injury in a vehicle accident while on duty in Iraq.

Specialists in U.S. military law say that if a series of investigations finds sufficient legal evidence, the Army sergeant will be charged and will face a court martial.

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