Witnesses Blame "Drunk Soldiers" for Afghan Killings

By Will Godfrey 03/12/12

Disputed reports emerge over whether more than one US soldier committed yesterday's killings of 16 civilians, and whether alcohol played a part.

An Afghan woman with the body of her
grandchild, who died in the killings.
Photo via

Details are still emerging about the killing of 16 civilians, nine of them children, in southern Afghanistan in the early hours of Sunday morning, but it seems that alcohol may have played a role in the slaughter. Though American military sources claim the slayings were carried out by an unhinged soldier, local witnesseses insist that several US soldiers were involved. Agha Lala, a neighbor of the house in which 11 of the victims were murdered, told Reuters, "They were all drunk and shooting all over the place. [The victims'] bodies were riddled with bullets." Other neighbors described the soldiers as laughing and drunk. But a Pentagon spokesman says there is "every indication" that a single individual was responsible for the "tragic" killings— a 38-year-old sergeant who is married with two children. Reports cited by the BBC suggest that he was either drunk or suffering from a nervous breakdown. Coming at a particularly fragile moment in U.S-Afghan relations, the attack could hardly be more incendiary, but the involvement of a sole smashed gun-man would surely be less harmful than confirmation that a group was involved. In any case, US forces are braced for retaliation. The Taliban has promised revenge, while Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the killings as an "inhuman" and demanded rapid justice.

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Will Godfrey is the former editor-in-chief of TheFix. He was also the founding editor-in-chief of Substance.com, and previously co-founded a magazine for prisoners in London. His work has appeared in Salon, Pacific Standard, AlterNet and The Nation among others. He is currently the Executive Director at FILTER. You can find Will on Linkedin and Twitter.