May 16, 2013

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

By Kathy Gannon / The Associated Press

(Continued from page 3)

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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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For example, Masooma gave an telephone interview to a reporter days after the attack, with Baraan, her brother-in-law, acting as a translator. According to the resulting story, she described a single attacker in her home, but said she saw many soldiers outside.

Three months later, her family allowed a female Army investigator to question her. The investigator testified at a hearing last fall that Masooma clearly stated two soldiers carried out the attack. The investigator said she had no reason to doubt Masooma's credibility.

At the same hearing, Baraan testified, insisting Masooma was mistaken when she said there were two soldiers. Lawyers for the soldier accused in the killings suggested Baraan might be influencing Masooma – especially since the defense was not allowed to speak with her.

No physical evidence has emerged to suggest more than one soldier took part in the killings. Surveillance footage from the base showed one soldier returning to the camp; the soldiers who greeted him said he was covered in blood.

Nevertheless, many Afghans villagers, including some eyewitnesses, continue to insist multiple soldiers were present during the attack.

In the interview with the AP, Masooma did not waver in her insistence that one soldier attacked her home, and Baraan denied that she ever reported seeing many soldiers outside. Masooma did recall flares lighting the sky until "night seemed like day" – which is consistent with testimony from the hearing, as guards said they fired a flare that illuminated the sky for 20 seconds after hearing gunshots. Masooma also said she heard helicopters overhead; there was no corroborating testimony at the hearing.

Masooma is absolutely certain of one thing: what it will take for her to find closure.

"I just want to see him killed," she said of Bales. "I want to see him dead. Then I can let go."

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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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