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U.S. soldier accused of killing 16 Aghan civilians

9 women, 3 children among victims of alleged shooting spree

An American soldier walked into a village near his base in southern Afghanistan, and shot and killed at least 16 civilians early Sunday morning, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Another five Afghan civilians were injured, the paper said. Nine children and three women were reportedly among the victims.

The Army staff sargeant turned himself in to military officials later Sunday and may have suffered some type of mental breakdown, the BBC said.

According to the Associated Press, President Hamid Karzai called the incident an "assassination," and demanded an explanation from Washington.

“This is an assassination, an intentional killing of innocent civilians and cannot be forgiven,” Karzai said in a statement. He said he has repeatedly demanded Americans stop killing Afghan civilians, the AP reported.

The U.S. military in a statement to the BBC said it had detained one of its own service members after what it called “a deeply regrettable incident." The United States said it was investigating the shooting, but gave no other details.

“This deeply appalling incident in no way represents the values of ISAF and coalition troops or the abiding respect we feel for the Afghan people,” Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said in a statement.

A NATO spokesman told the Associated Press it was unclear whether the shooter knew the victims.

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The shooting occurred in a house near the base where the soldier was stationed in Kandahar, in the country's south. An area resident told The New York Times the shooting happened Saturday at the home of an area tribal elder. 

The shooting comes after a series of violent incidents between Afghan soldiers and American troops at a particularly tense time following an incident where several U.S. soldiers were found to be burning copies of the Quran at Bagram Air Base.

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

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U.S. Army/Flickr

U.S. Army soldiers scan an area of Arezo village, Afghanistan, from a rooftop in October.