May 16, 2013

Afghans tell of U.S. soldier's killing rampage

By Kathy Gannon / The Associated Press

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Eight-year-old Hikmatullah said he remembers the sight of the attacker in full military uniform. "I was so afraid. I pretended I was asleep." His mother, Masooma, said the soldier found him and punched him repeatedly in the head.

The Associated Press

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Zardana, 11, speaks in Kandahar, Afghanistan, last month about a pre-dawn attack last year when a U.S. soldier burst into her family's home. Zardana said her visiting cousin saw the soldier chasing them and ran to help, but he was shot and killed. "We couldn't stop. We just wanted somewhere to hide. I was holding on to my grandmother and we ran to our neighbors."

The Associated Press

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"I thought we were going to America to see him hanged," Said Jan said. "Instead they showed us a courtroom and kept us in rooms asking us more and more questions."

Said Jan said he wasn't interested in returning for the trial.

"None of us will go," agreed Mohammed Wazir, who also went to the U.S. in March. "Why would we care about seeing America? We will only go if he is hanged."

Wazir said he returned home from a trip the morning after the attack to find 11 members of his family dead – his wife, his mother, two brothers, a 13-year-old nephew and his six children. Their bodies were partially burned.

He was left only with his 3-year-old son, Habib Shah, who had accompanied him on the trip to Spin Boldak, a town on the Pakistani border.

While Wazir spoke of the horror of finding his home spattered with blood, still smelling of burned flesh, Habib, now 4, played by his side, chewing on his toy police car, occasionally running it across his father's legs, loading small candies on the roof and giggling when they tumbled off.

"He misses his mother all the time," Wazir said, trying to straighten Habib's curly brown hair.

From another home that was attacked that night, 16-year-old Rafiullah remembers the American soldier smashing through the door waving his pistol. Awakened in a small room with his grandmother and his sister Zardana, he said he didn't know what to do. "We just ran and he ran after us."

Zardana, 11, said a cousin dashed over to help. He was shot and killed, she said. "We couldn't stop. We just wanted somewhere to hide. I was holding on to my grandmother and we ran to our neighbors." Their neighbor, Naim, came out of his house to see what the noise was all about and was shot and wounded. His daughter then ran to him but was killed by the American soldier, Zardana said, struggling to remember and fiddling with her green scarf decorated with tiny sequins.

Zardana, who said she saw soldiers in a nearby field as she ran from one house to the next, remembers trying to hide behind her grandmother at the neighbor's house. But the soldier found them.

Gesturing with his hand as if spraying the room with gunfire, Rafiullah said the soldier "just went bang, bang, bang."

Rafiullah was wounded in both his legs, his grandmother was killed and Zardana was shot in the head.

She removed her scarf to show where the wound had healed; the effects will last a lifetime. She suffered nerve damage on her left side and has to walk with a cane. Her hand is too weak to hold anything heavy.

Zardana spent about two months recovering at the Kandahar Air Base hospital and three more at a naval hospital in San Diego receiving rehabilitation therapy, accompanied by her father, Samiullah.

Listening as she spoke, Samiullah smiled at his lanky daughter, encouraging her to say the only English phrase she knows: "Thank you."

Zardana spoke of her treatment in San Diego and the doctors and nurses who helped her learn to walk again, gave her toys and still find ways to stay in touch.

"They showed me so much love," she said with a tiny smile. "They asked me about what happened and when I told them how my grandmother died and how afraid I was and how I was shot, they cried and cried."

The accounts of many villagers have varied over the past year, making it a challenge for investigators and journalists to find out a full narrative of the attack.

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Mohammed Wazir sits with his only surviving son, Habib Shahin, 4, in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in April as he talks about the events of March 11, 2012, when a U.S. soldier burst into his family's home. Wazir returned to his home that morning to find 11 members of his family dead, their bodies partially burned. The youngest among the dead was his 1-year-old daughter Palawan Shah.

The Associated Press


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