Entries in Deaths (15)


Firsthand Account of Afghan Insider Attacks as War Reaches 2,000 Dead

US Department of Defense(NEW YORK) -- The war in Afghanistan -- the nation’s longest -- has now reached a grim milestone: 2,000 Americans killed in the country.

The most recent of the 2,000 deaths -- suspected to be an insider attack by Afghan forces, or “green on blue” -- was reported Saturday in eastern Afghanistan. During the first nine months of this year, 254 members of the U.S. military lost their lives in Afghanistan.

They are soldiers like Army First Lt. Alejo Thompson, a husband and father of two from Yuma, Ariz. He was killed in May by an Afghan soldier he was mentoring.

Sgt. Joshua Danison witnessed the insider attack and gave ABC News the first eyewitness account.

“We woke up one morning to some gunshots being fired,” he said. “At the time, it was very chaotic. It was an Afghan National Army soldier. We seen [sic] the shooter actually walk up to Lt. Thompson and shoot him.”

Thompson’s killer escaped after the attack and was shown in a Taliban video receiving a hero’s welcome.

Now the men who trust the Afghan security forces with their lives are wrestling with the betrayal.

“There were comments made that we don’t trust them. We don’t want to be around them. We don’t want to partner with them anymore,” Danison said. “But to overcome that, we have to look at it as a mission and it is in our character -- from the time we come out of basic training -- to accomplish missions.”

But for the troops of Task Force Red Warrior, Thompson’s unit, worry remains. Uneasiness is a part of the mission now and will likely be until the last American troops leave the country in 2014.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


DOJ: No Charges in CIA Detainee Death Investigations

Wathiq Khuzaie/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. government said Thursday that it had closed its investigation into the alleged torture of more than 100 detainees held by the CIA in overseas prisons, and the deaths of two men who died while in CIA custody, without prosecuting anyone.

The Justice Department's announcement Thursday that it would not bring charges in the deaths of terror suspects Gul Rahman and Manadel al-Jamadi formally ended a multi-year probe by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham into the CIA's controversial "enhanced interrogation" program.

"Based on the fully developed factual record concerning the two deaths, the Department has declined prosecution because the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement released Thursday afternoon.

Rahman, a suspected Afghan militant, died in 2002 in a CIA prison known as the Salt Pit when he was left shackled to a cement floor in a near-freezing room. Iraqi prisoner Manadel al-Jamadi died in the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2003 only hours after he was captured by the military.

In a statement, ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer called the Justice Department's decision "nothing short of a scandal."

"The Justice Department has declined to bring charges against the officials who authorized torture, the lawyers who sought to legitimate it, and the interrogators who used it," said Jaffer. "It has successfully shut down every legal suit meant to hold officials civilly liable....Today's decision not to file charges against individuals who tortured prisoners to death is yet another entry in what is already a shameful record."

Former CIA director Michael Hayden applauded the decision to close the inquiry. "I am heartened that this is closed," said Hayden. "I am heartened by the outcome. I had confidence in Mr. Durham's fairness. I am sorry that CIA officers had to go through yet another review of their activities."

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks Justice Department lawyers John Yoo and Jay Bybee authorized harsh tactics to interrogate captured al Qaeda members in a 2002 legal memo. A December 2004 memo rescinded that guidance.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Durham was initially appointed by Attorney General Michael Mukasey in January 2008 to investigate the destruction of waterboarding videotapes by CIA official Jose Rodriguez. The tapes purportedly showed CIA agents using harsh interrogation techniques on terror suspects. No charges were filed at the conclusion of that investigation.

Attorney General Eric Holder expanded Durham's investigation in August 2009 to review harsh interrogation tactics and potential cases where CIA interrogators used tactics that had not been approved by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. Former CIA directors and former Vice President Dick Cheney criticized Holder for expanding the inquiry.

Last year Durham informed Holder he was closing many aspects of the investigation but recommended convening a federal grand jury to investigate the deaths of Rahman and Al-Jamadi.

Jose Rodriguez said Thursday that he was "gratified to learn of today's turn of events."

"The decision announced today is consistent with similar decisions made during the previous administration," said Rodriguez. "The deaths of these two individuals many years ago were indeed unfortunate. It should be noted, however, that neither individual was involved in the controversial -- but in my view necessary and productive -- enhanced interrogation program."

In a message to CIA employees, current CIA director David Petraeus thanked them for their cooperation with the investigation.

Attorney General Holder said that he had asked Durham to undertake the expanded investigation because of the need for a "thorough examination of the detainee treatment issue," and that Durham had "satisfied that need." However, he also said that inquiry was limited to "whether prosecutable offenses were committed and was not intended to, and does not resolve, broader questions regarding the propriety of the examined conduct."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Heavy Snowfall in Japan Kills 52, Injures Hundreds

Comstock/Thinkstock(TOKYO) -- Heavy snowfall has crippled much of Japan’s western coast, killing more than 50 people and injuring nearly 600.

The worst snowstorm in five years has dumped more than 10 feet of snow in the hardest-hit regions, causing at least one bridge to collapse and forcing school closures across the region.

An avalanche on Wednesday buried three people for more than an hour near a hot springs in Akita Prefecture in northwest Japan.  The women were later found unconscious but survived.

Western Japan has been battered by one snowstorm after another since the beginning of the year, overwhelming cash-strapped cities struggling to keep up with cleanup efforts. In the Niigata Prefecture, officials said nearly half of their 30 cities had run out of funds set aside snow removal. Further north in the Aomori Prefecture, the government had already applied for additional funds from Tokyo, after draining its budget.

video platform video management video solutions video player

Residents, frustrated by the slow response, have taken it upon themselves to clean up the winter mess, resulting in deadly consequences. Nearly all the storm-related deaths have been a direct result of snow removal.

Meanwhile, in Nagano, the weight of all the snow proved to be too much for a 310-foot steel bridge.  It collapsed early this week, although no one was injured.

The Japan Meteorological Agency forecasts more snowfall in the next 24 hours.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US Marine Escapes Jail Time in 2005 Slayings of Iraqi Civilians PENDLETON, Calif.) -- There is outrage in Iraq over a deal that allowed a Marine to plea down to a lesser charge in the 2005 killings of 24 people in the town of Haditha.

At the time, eight Marines were charged in the deaths of the unarmed residents.  But charges were dropped since then against seven of the defendants, while Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich's manslaughter trial came to a halt when he pleaded guilty to negligent dereliction of duty.

Initially implicated in 19 of 24 deaths, Wuterich told a military court at Camp Pendleton, Calif., on Tuesday that he did not shoot any women or children.

He said, "I told my team to shoot first and ask questions later, the intent wasn't that they would shoot civilians, it was that they would not hesitate in the face of the enemy."

Wuterich added that his guilty plea should not be construed as admitting that he or any of his squad did anything to dishonor the Marine Corps or the U.S.

Looking at the possibility of three months in prison, the court did not sentence Wuterich to any jail time.  He could, however, be demoted to private, the lowest rank in the service.

Before Tuesday’s hearing, Saleem al-Jubouri, the head of the Iraqi parliament's human rights committee, said the terms of the plea deal were "a violation of Iraqis' dignity."

Meanwhile, residents of Haditha were stunned by the outcome of the trial.  The mayor of the town complained that the trial made a mockery of the U.S. justice system.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Report: U.S. Troop Casualties Down in 2011 

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- For the first time in four years, U.S. military deaths dropped in 2011, USA Today reports. U.S. military troops have recently experienced successful runs against Taliban insurgents and coalition forces.

According to Pentagon reports compiled by USA Today, deaths of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan totaled 405 in 2011 -- an 18-percent decline from the previous year.  Also in 2011, allied deaths, including U.S. outfits, totaled 545 -- down from 699 in 2010. According to the reports, the death toll for coalition forces had been climbing since 2005.

Despite the encouraging numbers, a think tank analyst told USA Today that the declining number of U.S. casualties is not the best gauge for progress in the war with Afghan insurgents.

Although these numbers can impact American public opinion, Seth Jones tell USA Today, "The struggle is for the hearts and minds of the Afghan population."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


More Deaths Reported as Syrian Unrest Continues

KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- Violence continued over the weekend in Syria with opposition groups saying 18 people had been killed in clashes with government forces.

The Local Coordination Committees of the opposition say 11 deaths occurred in the cities of Homs and Hama, while two people died in violence between Syrian troops and deserters in the country’s northern region.  The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights reports that a general strike called by opposition groups on Sunday -- the first day of the work week -- was, “widely observed” in southern Syria.

The United Nations estimates more than 4,000 people, including 307 children, have been killed in nine months of unrest in Syria.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been under growing international pressure to end the continuing crackdown on anti-government protesters. Western powers and the Arab League have both imposed economic sanctions on the country.

The Arab League is due to meet this week to discuss plans to send in monitors to observe the unrest in Syria.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Dozens Killed, Injured in Attacks During Holy Holiday in Afghanistan

MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty ImagesUPDATE: The Taliban has issued a statement denying any kind of involvement in Tuesday's attacks in Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif.

(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- For the first time, militants targeted Shiite mourners in Afghanistan on one of their holiest holidays Tuesday, setting off bombs in downtown Kabul and the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, according to police officials.

In the most significant attack, at least 54 people were killed and 164 injured, according to the Afghan health ministry, when a suicide bomber blew himself up in the Abul Fazel Shrine in the middle of Kabul, not far from the ministry of defense and the presidential palace.  Reporters at the shrine described a horrific scene, with bodies of the dead and injured strewn across the entry of the shrine and the street outside.

Almost simultaneously, a bomb hidden in a bicycle exploded by a Shiite shrine in Mazar-e-Sharif, the largest city in northern Afghanistan, near the border with Uzbekistan.  Four were killed and 21 others were injured in that attack, according to police.

Tuesday is Ashurra, a national holiday in many Muslim countries that marks the death of the prophet’s grandson Hussein -- an event that helped cement the separation of Shia and Sunni Islam.  Shiites mark the day by mourning, often beating or cutting themselves to reenact the pain that Hussein suffered.

There has been horrible violence on Ashurra in Iraq over the years -- as well as in Pakistan -- but never in Afghanistan, which is why Tuesday's attack is troubling.  The Afghan Taliban is an almost entirely Sunni group, but there has not been major sectarian violence in Afghanistan since the initial U.S. invasion in 2001.  The worry is that this will set off more sectarian attacks and instability in Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


UN Blames Syria for Hundreds of Children's Deaths

KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- The United Nations has accused Syria of crimes against humanity that include the killing and torture of children during its eight-month crackdown on pro-democracy activists.

According to an investigation by the U.N. Human Rights Council, at least 256 youngsters have died as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad keeps trying to hold onto power.

The report listed an incident of a two-year-old girl who was allegedly shot dead by a soldier so that she wouldn't grow up to be a protester.  Meanwhile, some boys were reported to have been sexually tortured in front of adult men.

Independent sources have listed more than 3,500 fatalities since mid-March, although the number could be much higher.

The Human Rights Council said the government gave "shoot to kill" orders to halt protests throughout the country as troops "shot indiscriminately at unarmed protesters" and snipers aimed at the head or upper body of civilians.

This latest condemnation of Syria comes just a day after the Arab League slapped Damascus with sweeping sanctions that could further cripple the already ailing economy.  Since 60 percent of Syria's exports go directly to Arab neighbors, if the governments stand firm, they could force al-Assad into halting the violent crackdown that threatens to further destabilize the Middle East.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Human Rights Group: Latest Crackdown in Syria Is One of Its Deadliest

KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- If Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is angry at the Arab League for suspending his country's membership in the group, he's taking out his fury on civilians, according to a human rights group.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed on Tuesday that at least 80 people died at the hands of government forces over a 24-hour period.  If that figure can be verified, it would make Tuesday one of the deadliest since al-Assad instituted a crackdown on pro-democracy activists more than eight months ago.

Most of the reported killings occurred in Daraa province, in the cities of Hama and Hom, which have been hotbeds for violence.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Right Army claimed that it had slain 34 government soldiers in its bid to overthrown al-Assad's regime.

The United Nations estimates that more than 3,500 people have died in Syria since earlier this year as a result of the fighting.

The UN Security Council on Tuesday also condemned the attacks on diplomatic missions in Damascus which were in response to the Arab League's drumming Syria out of the group for failing to abide by an agreement to stop the crackdown.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


UN: Death Toll in Syrian Uprising Exceeds 3,000

AFP/Getty Images(GENEVA) -- More than 3,000 Syrians have been killed since the uprising began there seven months ago, according to the United Nations high commissioner for human rights.

That death toll includes at least 187 children and over 100 people who were killed in the last 10 days, Navi Pillay said in a statement Friday.

"Since the start of the uprising in Syria, the Government has consistently used excessive force to crush peaceful protests...The result has been a devastatingly remorseless toll of human lives," Pillay said.

Along with the number of deaths, Pillay noted that "thousands have been arrested, detained, forcibly disappeared and tortured" since the movement began in March.

"The Government of Syria has manifestly failed to protect its population," she said.

Pillay continued, "all members of the international community to take protective action in a collective and decisive manner, before the continual ruthless repression and killings drive the country into a full-blown civil war."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio