The attack began around 3 a.m. in two villages in Panjwai district, a rural suburb of Kandahar and a traditional Taliban stronghold where coalition forces have fought for control for years. The villages _ Balandi and Alkozai _ are about 500 yards (meters) from a U.S. base.
The gunman went into three houses and opened fire, said a resident of Alkozai, Abdul Baqi, citing accounts from his neighbors.
“When it was happening in the middle of the night, we were inside our houses. I heard gunshots and then silence and then gunshots again,” Baqi said.
One villager said eleven of those killed were members of his family, many of them women and children.
An AP photographer saw 15 bodies in the two villages caught up in the shooting. Some of the bodies had been burned, while others were covered with blankets. A young boy partially wrapped in a blanket was in the back of a minibus, dried blood crusted on his face and pooled in his ear. His loose-fitting brown pants were partly burned, revealing a leg charred by fire.
An AP photo showed the bloodstained corner of a house next to a large black area that was charred by fire. The charred area appeared to be remnants of blankets and possibly bodies that had been set on fire.
Villagers packed inside the minibus looked on with concern as a woman spoke to reporters. She pulled back a blanket to reveal the body of a smaller child wearing what appeared to be red pajamas. A third dead child lay in a pile of green blankets in the bed of a truck.
A U.S. official in Washington said the American, an Army staff sergeant, was believed to have acted alone and that initial reports indicated he returned to the base after the shooting and turned himself in.
However Karzai’s statement left some confusion on the point. He spoke of a single U.S. gunman, but in another part of the statement referred to “American forces” entering the houses.
It also said the president spoke by phone to one of the five people wounded in the attack, a 15-year-old named Rafiullah, who was shot in the leg. The statement said the teenager told Karzai that American soldiers entered his house in the middle of the night, woke up his family and began shooting them.