Taliban fire on Afghan officials at attack site
BALANDI, Afghanistan (AP) — Two brothers of Afghan President Hamid Karzai were leaving a village mosque where they attended a memorial service for 16 villagers killed by a U.S. soldier when the Taliban insurgents opened fire.
Qayum and Shah Walid Karzai and other top Afghan officials in their delegation escaped in their cars unharmed from the Tuesday ambush in the country’s south.
But one Afghan soldier was hit in the head almost immediately and died, while two other Afghan army personnel were wounded in the 20-minute firefight that ensued in one of the two villages in Kandahar province where the killings had occurred two days before.
The gunbattle came as images of the aftermath of Sunday’s killings spread across the country, and the public reaction — which at first seemed surprisingly muted — began to build.
In the east, students staged the first significant protest in response to the killings, raising concerns about a repeat of the wave of violent demonstrations that rocked the nation after last month’s burning of Qurans by troops at a U.S. base.
The incident has also added to pressure in the U.S. to get out of Afghanistan more quickly. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, speaking to reporters on the plane traveling to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, said the military withdrawal was still on schedule to finish by 2014.
Panetta said he was awaiting plans from Gen. John Allen, the top commander in Afghanistan, to bring home the remaining 23,000 U.S. troops sent to Afghanistan during the 2009 surge. Those forces are due to leave by the end of September, dropping the U.S. presence in the country down to 68,000 troops.