Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Sunday condemned the murder of 16 civilians by a U.S. soldier in southern Afghanistan, as an “unforgivable crime”.

“Late last night, an American soldier went inside people’s homes in Balandi Pul, in the Zangabad area of Panjwai district and killed 16 civilians, including nine children and three women, and wounded five others,” a Presidential palace statement said.

“The Afghan government has often condemned those so-called counter-terrorism operations in which civilians suffer casualties,” Mr. Karzai was quoted as saying in the statement. “But if American soldiers intentionally kill people, then it is... an unforgivable crime.” Mr. Karzai had asked the United States to explain the incident to the people of Afghanistan. The statement also quoted Haji Samad Aka, members of whose family were among those killed.

“American forces have killed innocent people despite your continued calls to prevent civilian causalities,” Mr. Aka told Mr. Karzai by telephone. “American soldiers oppress us.”

A delegation had been sent to Panjwai to investigate the killings, the palace said.

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