Afghan government team attacked, Taliban fume over massacre
By Rob Taylor and Mirwais Harooni
KABUL (Reuters) - Suspected insurgents opened fire on Tuesday on senior Afghan investigators of the massacre of 16 civilians by a lone U.S. soldier, Afghan officials said, just hours after the Taliban threatened to behead American troops to avenge the killings.
The gunmen shot from long range at two of President Hamid Karzai's brothers, Shah Wali Karzai and Abdul Qayum Karzai, and security officials at the site of the massacre in Kandahar's Panjwai district.
Karzai's brothers were unharmed in the brief battle, which began during meetings with local people at a mosque near Najiban and Alekozai villages, but a soldier was killed and a civilian wounded. The area is a Taliban stronghold and a supply route.
The Taliban had earlier threatened reprisals for the weekend shooting spree, which came weeks after deadly riots across the country over the burning of copies of the Koran by U.S. troops at NATO's main base in the country. That violence led to calls to accelerate a 2014 goal for the exit of most foreign combat troops.
"The Islamic Emirate once again warns the American animals that the mujahideen will avenge them, and with the help of Allah will kill and behead your sadistic murderous soldiers," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement, using the term by which the Islamist group describes itself.
The grim warning, which was unlikely to have any impact on heavily-protected NATO soldiers on the ground, followed the February beheading of four Afghan men by insurgents in a country where such killings are relatively rare.
Tuesday's attack, which was carried out despite tight security around Karzai's siblings, Kandahar governor Tooryalai Wesa and Tribal Affairs Minister Asadullah Khalid, underscored the insurgents' ability to strike at fledgling Afghan government forces.
The first protests over Sunday's massacre also broke out in eastern city Jalalabad, where around 2,000 demonstrators chanted "Death to America" and demanded President Karzai reject a planned strategic pact with Washington that would allow U.S. advisers and possibly special forces to remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014. Continued...