The American soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians, nine of them children, had already served three tours of duty in Iraq and arrived in Afghanistan for his first tour in December, according to The Associated Press.

The man is said to have walked from his base in Kandahar province early Sunday morning to two nearby villages, where he allegedly shot 16 civilians, setting some of their bodies on fire. There may have been more than one killer, according to reports from locals, but so far the U.S. military has said it believes the one man in custody is to blame. A 20-year-old Afghan man whose father, mother, brother and sister were all killed while he played dead is quoted by the BBC saying there was more than one American in his house: “The Americans stayed in our house for a while. … I was very scared.”

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said the massacre “cannot be forgiven.” Regardless, President Obama called to offer his condolences.

According to an anonymous AP source, the suspected killer came from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state, which Stars and Stripes in 2010 dubbed “the most troubled base in the military.” Soldiers from the same base were recently convicted of murdering civilians from the same part of Afghanistan. As The New York Times recounts, “In November, Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs of the former Fifth Stryker Brigade was convicted of leading several other soldiers in his unit to stage combat situations so they could kill Afghan civilians near Kandahar. A dozen soldiers in the unit faced charges of some kind. Those crimes, in which soldiers took photographs of themselves holding up the heads of those they had killed, alarmed Army leaders and increased tension between American and Afghan officials.” — PZS

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