Entries in Afghan Civilians (13)


Psychiatric Evaluation Ordered for Soldier in Afghan Civilian Murder Spree

US Army(SEATTLE) -- The likelihood that an Army staff sergeant will go on trial for murdering Afghan civilians this year is in doubt now that Robert Bales has been ordered to undergo an official sanity review.

Bales, who is being held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Seattle, can't have his lawyers present a mental health defense until he's had the psychiatric evaluation.

This will certainly push back any chance of his trial starting sometime in 2013 as his lawyers already have to pore over thousands of documents that detail the Army's charges that Bales killed 16 civilians after allegedly sneaking off his base in Afghanistan twice in the same night last March.

Bales' mental health review is expected to be conducted by health experts not chosen by either the prosecution or defense so as to produce a neutral result.

It had already been ascertained that the sergeant's mental health at the time of the alleged shooting would be a central part of the defense's argument since it was previously reported that Bales may have suffered from a traumatic head injury.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Truck Bomb Outside US Base in Afghanistan Injures Troops, Civilians

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- A suicide truck bomb exploded outside the gate of a U.S. military base in eastern Afghanistan Tuesday, leaving at least 11 civilians and two NATO troops injured.

In a statement, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed the attack, saying, "According to current reporting, a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device attack took place outside an ISAF base and near an Afghan bazaar in Logar province this morning."

While the ISAF said reports indicated Afghan civilians were wounded in the blast, they did not mention any injuries among NATO troops.  Instead, the coalition said, "Currently, there are no reports that indicate there were ISAF fatalities."

According to AFP, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a text message.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid wrote,"At around 9:00 am one of our mujahideen (holy warriors) carried out a suicide truck bomb attack on a big US forces' camp resulting in many deaths and injuries."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Several Afghan Civilians Dead After Bomb Strikes Bus Near Kabul

SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- At least nine Afghan civilians are dead and three others wounded after a remote-controlled explosive struck a minibus near Kabul Tuesday morning.

The blast occurred in Paghman district, an area that is a popular picnic spot for Afghans.  According to reports, the intended target may have been Afghan National Army soldiers but civilians were mistakenly hit instead.

Police have arrested the suspected insurgent, who was caught with the remote detonation device in his hand.  

While no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, fingers are being pointed at the Taliban.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


White House Declines Comment on Afghan Civilian Deaths

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The White House refrained from offering an on-the-record comment Tuesday about a U.S. airstrike Friday in Afghanistan that accidentally killed six innocent civilians, including five children.

Obama administration officials said the Pentagon and the International Security Assistance Force normally handle such incidents, though the administration “obviously has sought to reduce civilian casualties.”

Pentagon spokesman Captain John Kirby said NATO does everything it can to prevent civilian casualties.

“We work very, very hard not to cause collateral damage or civilian casualties, exceptionally hard,” Kirby said. “And when it happens as tragic as it is, it’s by mistake, it’s an accident.”

When they occur, he said, “we own up to it, we take responsibility, we investigate it.”  He countered the coalition’s position with the Taliban, whom he said “do it wantonly, recklessly, sometimes with the intent to cause harm to civilians, and they don’t take it anywhere near as seriously. ”

Kirby said ISAF commander Gen. John Allen had met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and had taken responsibility “for the casualties that we caused.” He said “we take each one very, very seriously. They’re all a tragedy.”

In March, 120 members of ISAF, the Afghan government, and other groups convened the third Civilian Casualty Conference to talk about ways to reduce civilian deaths.

Allen declared that “preventing civilian casualties is a top priority....We have worked hard to take extensive measures to prevent civilian casualties, and those efforts are getting results.”

Civilian casualties came at a time when Allied planes flying over Afghanistan have dropped fewer bombs in Afghanistan. According to statistics compiled by the Air Force, through the end of April, coalition aircraft released weapons 654 times this year, just under half the 1,247 weapons released during that same time period in 2011.

At the Civilian Casualty Conference, Lt. Gen. Adrian Bradshaw, ISAF deputy commander, noted that in the previous four months, “insurgents have caused 93 percent, or 958 civilian casualties,” mostly with improvised explosive devices. “In the same period of time, seven percent, or 72 civilian casualties, regrettably, were caused by ISAF forces,” he added. “It is important to note though that compared to the same period of time last year, ISAF-caused civilian casualties have been reduced by 65 percent.”

Allen said that one Afghan civilian casualty caused by ISAF forces is too many.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Afghan War Support Hits New Low; Many Urge Mental Health Checks

U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Dexter S. Saulisbury(NEW YORK) -- Support for the war in Afghanistan has dropped to a new low in ABC News/Washington Post polls, surpassing even the war in Iraq at its most unpopular.  Six in 10 Americans believe most Afghans themselves oppose the U.S. mission.  And after a shooting rampage allegedly by a U.S. soldier, eight in 10 say the military should improve mental health monitoring and limit combat duty alike.

Two-thirds of Americans now say the war in Afghanistan has not been worth fighting, a new high that matches peak opposition to the Iraq war almost exactly five years ago.  Support for the Afghanistan war, at just 30 percent, is 3 points lower than the lowest on record for Iraq.

Views on the war were virtually as negative last spring, then improved after the killing of Osama bin Laden.  The subsequent erosion follows the U.S. military’s inadvertent burning of the Koran and other Muslim holy texts at Bagram Air Base in February, violent protests that followed and, separately, the massacre of 17 Afghan civilians in Kandahar in March, allegedly by a U.S. service member.

In an ABC/Post poll last month, after the Koran burning and related protests, opposition to the war increased from 54 percent to 60 percent, with just three in 10 believing Afghans themselves supported U.S. efforts in their country.  Now, after the civilian massacre, opposition to the war has risen by another 6 points, to 66 percent, and the belief that Afghans support the war has dropped by 8 points, to 22 percent.

The drop in views that Afghans themselves support U.S. efforts makes a difference.  This poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds that among those who think most Afghans back the war, a majority -- 53 percent -- think it’s been worth fighting.  Among those who think Afghans are opposed to what the U.S. is trying to accomplish, however, just 22 percent think the nation’s longest war has been worth it.

While there’s been speculation about the possible role of post-traumatic stress disorder or battlefield fatigue in the attack on Afghan civilians, the public divides, 44-43 percent, on whether this was an isolated incident or indicative of broader problems with the way the U.S. military monitors the mental health of service members.

Still, apart from the specific incident, there is a broad sense that the military should be doing more to track mental health -- 79 percent say so -- and to limit the amount of time active duty service members are deployed to combat areas, favored by an almost identical 80 percent.  Just 14 and 15 percent, respectively, think the military already is doing enough mental health monitoring and that time limits on deployments are not needed. 

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Sgt. Robert Bales Returned to Military Base in Between Shooting Spree

US Army(NEW YORK) -- Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the American soldier accused of slaughtering 17 Afghan civilians, stopped at his military base between killings, a U.S. official told ABC News.

The official says it was Bales' second departure from Camp Bellambay that led to a search party being organized to look for Bales after he was not found present for a muster organized to see if anyone was missing from the base.

Bales was detained after he returned on his own accord to the base after the attack on the second village. U.S. officials say there is aerial surveillance video taken by a security blimp located over the base that shows Bales in a prone position making his way back to the base after the second attack. His detention is not shown on the video.

The U.S. official confirmed that investigators believe that Bales returned to the base after the attack on the first village, but does not believe that he was detected leaving the base the first time.

"We know he made two trips," said the U.S. official, who would not provide details as to how investigators know that Bales returned to the base in between the attacks, though he said there is no video showing Bales returning to the base the first time.

The official did not know Bales' motivation in returning to the base the first time.

Bales was officially charged Friday with 17 counts of murder, six counts of attempted murder and six counts of aggravated assault, military officials said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Afghan Massacre Suspect Had Criminal Record, Wanted Promotion

Staff Sgt Robert Bales (L) and another soldier at a training center in Fort Irwin, CA in 2011. United States Army(FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan.) -- Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, named as the suspect who allegedly went on a rampage, killing 16 Afghan civilians last week, is remembered by those who know him as a devoted husband, father and friend, but news of a criminal record has surfaced and his wife's blog posts reveal a man frustrated with not being promoted.

Between the 38-year-old's deployments, he had scattered trouble at home, including a criminal record that includes a misdemeanor arrest for assaulting a girlfriend in 2002 that led to 20 hours of court-ordered anger management, and a report of a drunk driving arrest in 2005 for which he wasn't charged.

His record also includes a hit-and-run in 2008.  According to the Tacoma News Tribune, he was given a 12-month suspended sentence and slapped with a $250 fine.

A blog by Bales' wife Karilyn, a public relations and marketing manager, reveals that Bales, who served three tours in Iraq and was reluctant to be deployed to Afghanistan, was passed over last year in his bid to become an E-7, sergeant first class.

"Bob didn't get a promotion and is very disappointed, after all the sacrifices he has made for his love of country. But I am also relieved. We can finally move on to the next phase of our lives," she wrote.

Karilyn had written that their family was hoping he would be assigned to Germany, Italy or Hawaii or perhaps become a sniper instructor in Georgia.  Instead, Bales was sent to Afghanistan where it's believed he snuck away from his outpost and methodically killed 16 Afghans, including nine children, before attempting to get back to his base.

The incident has further strained relations between Washington and Kabul, with many government officials furious that Bales was not left in Afghanistan to face a public trial.  He was brought to Kuwait and then flown to the U.S. last Friday, where he is in solitary confinement at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. 

Bales' defense team will meet with him on Monday to go over his military, medical and personnel records.  He has not yet been charged and could face the death penalty if found guilty. 

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Report: Army Sergeant Suspected in Afghan Killings 'Snapped'

JANGIR/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- With a Seattle law firm hired to assist military attorneys in defending an American Army staff sergeant expected to be charged in last Sunday's slaying of 16 Afghan civilians, The New York Times has quoted a U.S. official as saying that the suspect was drinking on the night that he allegedly went on a shooting spree and "snapped."

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that the 38-year-old soldier, who may be identified on Friday, was having marital problems and feeling stress from his fourth deployment in a war zone, having already served three tours before in Iraq.

According to the Times' source, "When it all comes out, it will be a combination of stress, alcohol and domestic issues -- he just snapped."

The sergeant was transferred from Afghanistan to Kuwait earlier in the week but there are reports confirmed by the Pentagon that the Kuwaitis wanted the suspect moved immediately out of the country.  He's expected to arrive at the prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, perhaps as early as Friday.

Meanwhile, attorney John Henry Browne said on Thursday that he was hired by the sergeant's family to represent him, although charges might not be filed for weeks.  The soldier, believed to be from the Midwest, was stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington.

Disputing reports of the soldier having marital difficulties, Browne said he had suffered both a concussion and a serious foot injury while in Iraq.

As for what might have happened on the night that 16 Afghans were gunned down, Browne claimed that soldiers at the small outpost where the sergeant was deployed in Afghanistan were apparently upset that someone in their unit was "gravely wounded."

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Afghan Delegation Comes Under Fire at Site of Massacre

Mamoon Durrani/AFP/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- An Afghan government delegation investigating the murders of 16 civilians by an American soldier came under attack Tuesday while visiting one of the crime scenes.

The delegation includes two brothers of Afghan President Hamid Karzi, senior officials from Kabul and at least a dozen journalists.

According to a cameraman for ABC News, who is traveling with the delegation, the officials were inside a mosque offering their condolences and prayers when they heard small and heavy arms fire.  Security forces traveling with the group responded, exchanging fire with the militants for about 10 minutes.

No one was killed, according to the cameraman, who added that a few bullets hit the exterior of the mosque.  It's unclear it there were any injuries in the shooting.

Meanwhile, in another sign of rising anger over the murders, several hundred students held a demonstration in Jalalabad on Tuesday.  A local eyewitness said the students were shouting that they can't tolerate the crimes of the American forces in Afghanistan and that the Afghan government shouldn't sign the long-term strategic partnership with the U.S.

Although the protest ended peacefully, it was the first major protest outside of the area where the massacre occurred.

The alleged shooter has been identified as a 38-year-old Army staff sergeant based at Fort Lewis in Washington state.  After Sunday morning's rampage, which left nine children and three women among the dead, the soldier is believed to have returned to his Kandahar base on his own and turned himself in.

The soldier has since lawyered up and is refusing to speak with investigators about what allegedly motivated him to gun down the civilians.

ABC News has learned that the soldier suffered a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) in 2010 while on deployment in Iraq.  It is unclear if the injury could have played a role in Sunday's massacre.  Officials said he went through the advanced TBI treatment at Fort Lewis and was deemed to be fine.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Taliban Vows Revenge for US Soldier's Alleged Deadly Rampage

JANGIR/AFP/Getty Images(ISLAMABAD) -- The Taliban has vowed revenge against "sick-minded American savages" after a U.S. soldier was accused of going on a deadly shooting rampage early Sunday morning.

The group said it would "take revenge from the invaders and the savage murderers for every single martyr," according to a statement posted on its website, the Times of London reported.

An Army veteran of three tours in Iraq who left his base in the middle of the night is suspected of methodically killing 16 Afghan civilians, most of them children and women.

The soldier's name has not been released, but a U.S. official told ABC News he is a 38-year-old staff sergeant who is married with two children.  He is apparently based at Fort Lewis in Washington state and was on his first tour in Afghanistan.

The soldier wore night-vision goggles during the alleged rampage and has "lawyered up" and declined to talk, according to a source.

The fear now is that this latest incident could set off a fresh wave of violence.  The attack comes just as outrage stemming from burning of several Korans by members of the U.S. military seemed to be calming down.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul has warned foreigners to keep a low profile.

The shooting took place at 3 a.m. Sunday in two villages in the Panjwai district of southern Kandahar province, a hotbed for the Taliban insurgency against U.S .forces.  The two villages are a short walk away from the U.S. base where the soldier was stationed.

Nine of the victims were children, and three were women, all shot while they slept in their beds, according to villagers and the Afghan president's office.

After the alleged shooting spree, it's believed the soldier returned to the base on his own, and calmly turned himself in.  He remains in NATO custody.

It's unclear whether the soldier knew the victims or whether the alleged attack was spontaneous and unprovoked.  It's also unknown whether he had any accomplices.

The Afghan parliament has passed a resolution in protest of the killings, and asked for a public trial of the U.S. soldier.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio