By Abdul Haleem, Chen Xin
KABUL, March 14 (Xinhua) -- After the decade-long anti- terrorism war in Afghanistan, Afghan people are finally able to rebuild their country and make tremendous achievements in this regard. However, an unexpected and bloody event on Sunday has undermined the progress towards U.S.-Afghan friendship.
The bloody incident, shocked everyone in world, was the indiscriminate firing and killing of over a dozen civilians by a U. S. soldier in southern Kandahar province over the weekend.
"The murderer is a U.S. soldier and not a Taliban. The man who brutally killed these innocent people was an American," a wailing lady said in Zangabad village where the gruesome incident happened.
Pointing finger at the dead bodies of her relatives, the shaking woman said, "I pray before Almighty God to punish those responsible for this crime."
The rogue U.S. soldier, according to NATO-led forces officials, came out of his base in Panjwai district early Sunday and opened fire in the houses in the neighboring village, inflicting casualties.
While the U.S. has not to heal the feeling of Afghans over Quran burning allegedly committed by U.S. soldiers in the Bagram airfield, the main U.S. military base 50 km north of Kabul in mid February, the rampage killing in Kandahar has recharged the already charged Afghans, according to observers.
"Americans burned Quran weeks ago in Bagram and now committed massacre in Panjwai of Kandahar. It could not be a mistake; rather a planned conspiracy to revenge their defeat," a Kabul-based analyst Wahid Mujda opined in talks with Xinhua.
Citing locals, he stressed that the number of casualties is more than 20 and not 16 as claimed by officials.
According to a statement of NATO-led troops, the man has been arrested. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has reportedly said that the soldier responsible for the alleged killing of 16 Afghans, could face death penalty.
The horrific scene of the shocking incident covered by media has caused panic among Afghans and triggered wide condemnations from all walks of life.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai in a statement released by his office described the incident as intentional act by a U.S. soldier and demanded explanation from U.S. administration.
Afghan Wolesi Jirga or Lower House of parliament and Mushrani Jirga or Upper House of parliament in sharp reactions, condemned the awful incident and demanded public punishment for the soldier, noting Afghans could not tolerate such "inhuman and serious crime anymore."
The tragic incident in Panjwai district took place amid talks between Washington and Kabul over proposed inking strategic partnership. President Hamid Karzai announced Sunday the proposed strategic pact would be inked before NATO's summit in Chicago scheduled to be held in May.
Nonetheless, Afghan analysts believed that the alleged massacre by the U.S. soldier in Panjwai district would damage the U.S.- Afghan friendship.
Although Afghan civilians few times had been mistakenly killed by NATO-led forces during operations against Taliban militants in the past, killing 16 civilians in Kandahar over weekend is an isolated case and unjustifiable, according to Afghans.
"Intentionally targeting of civilians and killing of innocent people no doubt would enhance anti-U.S. resentment and enable the Taliban to benefit from the situation and recruit more fighters," Mujda maintained, saying that the bloody incident would prompt many affected families to join Taliban and seek revenge.
To express its hatred, Shurai Ulema or religious council of Afghanistan in a statement released on Tuesday claimed that the U. S. soldiers after "brutally martyring civilians burned their bodies."
In addition to strongly condemning the alleged massacre, the highest religious body in the statement, called for the early public trial and punishment of those responsible for the callous act.
The statement also warned of dire consequences if the U.S. authorities fail to meet the demand.
To back the demand, hundreds of students on Tuesday took to the streets in Jalalabad city, the capital of Nangarhar province 120 km east of capital Kabul, and called for the punishment of the U.S. soldier involved in rampage killing of civilians in Kandahar province.
"Harming civilians by U.S. soldiers would boost up the idea that long-term presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan would mean more killing of Afghan civilians," another Afghan analyst Daud Sultanzoi said.
Punishing those behind Quran burning and the maniac killer soldier publicly as demanded by Afghan public and compensating the victims' families to calm down and befriend Afghans, obviously seems difficult for the U.S. at least at this stage.
Special Report: Afghanistan Situation