Entries in Massacre (24)


Prosecution Cites Revenge as Motive for Afghan Massacre

United States Army

(TACOMA, Wash.) -- According to Army prosecutors, Staff Sergeant Robert Bales has admitted multiple times being behind a shooting rampage in Afghanistan this past March that killed 16 Afghan civilians.

They say Bales has stated that he was acting out of revenge for previous attacks and chillingly admitted he thought he was "doing the right thing."

Bales is accused of having gone on a shooting rampage on the night of March 11 in Afghanistan's Kandahar Province. He is alleged to have snuck out of his remote outpost in the middle of the night and gone on a shooting spree at two nearby villages, where he killed 16 and injured six.

Evidence is being presented at an Article 32 hearing for Bales at Joint Base Lewis-McChord outside of Tacoma, Wash. The military's equivalent of a civilian grand jury, at the hearing prosecutors will present evidence before a presiding officer who will determine if Bales' case should go to a court-martial.

Sporting a shaved head, Bales sat quietly in court with a stoic demeanor as he heard prosecutors recount new details of the shooting spree he is alleged to have committed.

In his opening arguments Army prosecutor Lt. Colonel Joseph Morse said Bales had returned to the camp with his weapons and entire uniform covered in blood, some of which was later matched to at least one of the shooting victims.

Morse said that when he returned to his base Bales' demeanor seemed "completely normal" and when told to disarm at gunpoint, he responded, "Are you F-in' kidding me?!"

The prosecutor said Bales has made multiple admissions to the shootings "that clearly show, with chilling premeditation...Staff Sgt. Bales murdered these people." That included telling a fellow soldier, "Hey Mac, I just shot some people."

Bales allegedly stated that he "thought I was doing the right thing" and that he was apparently motivated by revenge for previous attacks to his unit.

Testifying Monday was Bales' colleague, Corporal Dave Godwin, who was granted immunity for his testimony. Godwin recounted how he and Bales had been drinking alcohol prior to the shooting rampage. American troops serving in Afghanistan are expressly forbidden from drinking alcohol while in the country.

Drinking Jack Daniels whiskey with soda, Godwin said they and another soldier "weren't drinking to get drunk." They had watched a portion of the movie Man on Fire, about a former CIA operative who goes on a revenge rampage.

Before the shooting rampage, Bales allegedly told his fellow soldiers that he had a "disgruntled family at home" and that he did not care "whether he gets killed or not."

When they went sleep at 11 p.m. Godwin said there was nothing odd about Bales' behavior. He recalled being awoken at 12:30 a.m. by loud banging on the door from fellow soldiers who said Bales had gone missing. After a quick search did not turn up Bales, a fellow soldier remembered Bales having said he was going to the village, but thought he was joking.

When Bales returned to the outpost Godwin was one of the soldiers who ordered him to put down his weapons that included an M-4 rifle, a grenade launcher and a 40-millimeter grenade belt.

He recalled Bales yelling, "Did you rat me out, did you rat me out?!"

Godwin said in addition to the T-shirt and camouflaged pants Bales was wearing, he had a blue sheet tied like a cape around his neck.

According to Godwin, "he said something like I thought 'I was doing the right thing' as we were taking his stuff away and he had his hands on his head." He added Bales seemed "very coherent" and looked like "he got caught with his hand in the cookie jar."

The Article 32 hearing is expected to last two weeks and some survivors of the attack will testify via a live satellite feed from Afghanistan.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


UN Calls for Probe into Alleged Massacre in Syrian City

Scott Peterson/Getty Images(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- Activist groups claimed that another 160 people were killed across Syria on Monday as the international community came to grips with the scene of another massacre allegedly perpetrated by government forces, this time in the Damascus suburb of Daraya where mass graves were discovered.

United Nations officials are calling for an immediate investigation into the deaths of at least 245 civilians -- many of them women and children -- in Daraya, the site of protests against the government of President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011.

The opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria asserted on Monday that Daraya was targeted because it was "one of the first cities that revolted against the Assad regime and was the spearhead of the peaceful demonstrations in the beginning of the revolution."

One opposition member alleged to have seen soldiers "picking up young men from the streets, from their homes, and conducted summary executions."  He said that whole families were also killed in the same way.

Videos of dozens of bloodied corpses supposedly from Daraya have also been posted online.

Meanwhile, Syria's state-run and pro-government TV networks offered a different story of what went on in Daraya, claiming that the army was welcomed by residents who were glad soldiers had driven "terrorists" out of the city.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US State Dept. Concerned About Massacre in Syria's Commercial Capital

JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- With Syrian government forces preparing for what looks like a large attack on Aleppo, the country's commercial capital, U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said Thursday that the U.S. is concerned that there could be a massacre in that city.  

“This is the concern, that we will see a massacre in Aleppo, and that's what the regime appears to be lining up for,” Nuland said, adding that the U.S. hopes to prevent a potential attack in Aleppo by increasing pressure on the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and calling them out on the matter.
Nuland explained that she chose to use the word "massacre" out of concern about, “the columns of tanks outside the city, that they seem to be massing for an attack ... the fact that you now have not only helicopter gunships but fixed-wing aircraft, which is a serious escalation in this conflict, the kind of artillery, et cetera, that we're seeing.”
But what can the U.S. do outside of the United Nations to prevent a massacre? Nuland spoke vaguely about the U.S., “working with the opposition to try to strengthen them.”

“This is a horrific situation,” she said. “This is abhorrent, what this regime is willing to do against its own people. We have to call it out. We have to do what we can to strengthen the opposition for the day after.”    

The "day after" is the new language that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been using for a political transition in a post-Assad Syria.

Likewise, Nuland repeated Clinton’s cautions from earlier this week to the Syrian opposition that they not carry out a policy of retribution once Assad’s gone.
But ultimately, she said the Assad regime, “will stop at nothing to hold on to power, and it is an extremely dangerous situation."  Nuland said the regime has ignored opportunities to stop the violence and “turn the page.”

"Instead, they've responded with bombardments and fixed-wing aircraft, helicopter gunships, artillery in the city and now this massing outside of one of the most historic and beautiful cities in that part of the world,” said Nuland.
“It is a desperate situation, and we are continuing to do all we can in the international community to put the pressure on,” she said.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Syrian Regime Accused of Biggest Massacre Yet

Vedat Xhymshiti/AFP/Getty Images(ANTAKYA, Turkey) -- United Nations Special Envoy to Syria Kofi Annan said Friday that he was “shocked and appalled” by opposition reports from a small central village that Syrian forces killed more than 200 people on Thursday.

If true, it would be the single bloodiest attack since the uprising began last March. It was impossible to verify opposition activists’ claims that forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad had shelled the village of Tremseh, near Hama, and then conducted a ground operation.

The head of the U.N. monitoring mission in Syria – which doesn’t venture out because of the ongoing violence – said his monitors witnessed the use of artillery, tanks and helicopters from their base around four miles away. “If we have credible cessation of violence and a local ceasefire, we stand ready to go in with a larger team to verify the facts on the ground,” said Gen. Robert Mood.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told ABC News that shelling started at 5 a.m. Thursday. That was followed by a ground operation carried out by security forces and troops. They said they had confirmed the deaths of more than 150 people.

Other activist accounts placed the death toll north of 200 and accused pro-regime “shabiha,” or thugs, of going on a deadly rampage in the village following the military’s attack. The attackers, they said, went into the Sunni village from surrounding villages that are Alawite, the Shiite sect Assad belongs to.

The account is similar to the attack on the village of Houla at the end of May that left 108 dead, around half of them children. The Assad regime agreed many were killed in Tremseh, but accused “tens of terrorists” who “ransacked, destroyed and burned scores of the village houses…”

They accused the terrorists – their catch-all term for opposition fighters – and “bloody media outlets” of taking advantage of a Thursday U.N. Security Council meeting on Syria to “manipulate public opinion against Syria.”

On Friday, communications with Tremseh appeared to be cut, making it more difficult to confirm the accounts. Video of the aftermath was scarce; one clip showed just over a dozen men who had been killed while another purported to show a long row of bodies in white burial shrouds in a mosque.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Syria has begun to move some of its chemical weapons from their secure locations, fueling fear they could be used. Syria is known to have one of the biggest chemical and biological weapons stockpiles in the Middle East, including sarin nerve agent, VX gas, mustard gas and cyanide.

“This could set the precedent of [weapons of mass destruction] being used under our watch,” a U.S. official told the Wall Street Journal. “This is incredibly dangerous to our national security.”

Aside from the fears of their use, there are also fears the weapons could fall into the wrong hands if the regime falls, whether it’s the al Qaeda-linked elements currently fighting against the regime or Syrian allies Hezbollah and Iran.

“Our assessment remains what it’s been for some time that the Syrian regime has control of its chemical weapons stockpiles,” Pentagon spokesman George Little told reporters on Friday. “We are watching very closely, not just the United States, but the international community, to make sure that they maintain control over those stockpiles and of course…to ensure that they don’t use them.” He also warned that the regime using the weapons “would cross a serious red line.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Syrian Activists: Massacre Leaves at Least 200 Dead in Tremseh

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Opposition activists in Syria are reporting that at least 200 people were killed in a massacre in the village of Tremseh, in Hama, according to the BBC.

They quoted residents as saying that helicopter gunships and tanks attacked the village, and said that a pro-government militia group carried out execution-style killings. State media blamed the violence on terrorist groups and said the attacks were committed to increase friction before the U.N. Security Council meeting on the observer mission in Syria.

If the massacre is confirmed, the attack would be one of the deadliest in Syria since the uprising against the Assad regime began in March 2011.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


‘Appalling’ Scene at Site of Latest Syria Massacre, Despite Lack of Bodies

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- A day after U.N. monitors were driven off by gunfire, a journalist traveling with the group Friday described to ABC News in chilling and graphic detail what he’d witnessed in the aftermath of Wednesday’s massacre in Mazraat al-Qubair that activists said left nearly 80 dead, including women and children.

Paul Danahar, the Middle East bureau chief for the BBC, said residents in nearby villages had said that a group of Alawite militia -- an offshoot of Shiite Islam and some of Bashar al-Assad’s supporters -- attacked Mazraat al-Qubair, which is Sunni, and fatally shot and stabbed everyone and everything, including livestock.

“The scene when I arrived here was truly appalling,” he said. “The stench of burnt flesh was still heavy in the air. [In one house], there were pieces of flesh and a large pool of blood in the corner. There was a tablecloth matted with blood. ”

“The bodies were taken away -- we were told -- by civilians in a pickup truck,” Danahar said Friday. “What we did see, though, on the tarmac on the side of these houses were tracks that the U.N. said could only have been made by military vehicles.”

He said the Syrian army confirmed that it was in the area, hunting down the terrorists -- “that’s the word they use for armed opposition groups” -- who had killed those in the village.

“What’s slightly confusing about the scenario is that terrorists don’t normally collect the bodies of the people they’ve killed and take them away,” Danahar said Friday. “Somebody’s cleaned this place up to try to hide the evidence, and it’s going to be very difficult to piece it together.”

The Red Cross Friday said that 1 million to 1.5 million Syrians were in urgent need of help. Earlier Friday, Syrian troops continued to bomb Khaldiyeh, a rebel-held neighborhood in the city of Homs.

Danahar said the situation in the country had gone from a Syrian revolution to a Sunni revolution, particularly in rural areas such as Mazraat al-Qubair, where people are more divided.

“In the urban centers, the communities are very mixed. People don’t even know what sect, what religion the people around them, their friends or their colleagues, are,” he said. “In the rural areas, they are much more vulnerable to this kind of threat and intimidation.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New Massacre in Syria Pushes UN to the Edge

Jason Kempin/FilmMagic(NEW YORK) -- Responding to reports of another large-scale massacre of civilians in Syria, United Nations special emissary Kofi Annan told the Security Council Thursday that action must be taken quickly to stop President Bashar al-Assad's forces or else the crisis will "spiral out of control."

So far, the Council has supported Annan's ceasefire pact, passed two resolutions to put monitors on the ground in Syria and condemned the 15-month cycle of violence that has cost an estimated 13,000 lives as al-Assad desperately tries to hold onto power.

News that dozens of civilians were found slain Wednesday in the country’s northern Hama province, an apparent massacre that called to mind the recent slaughter of more than 100 civilians in Houla, may have been the last straw for the international community.

The Security Council members went into a meeting after Annan urged them to apply "united" and "substantial" pressure on al-Assad to end his government’s crackdown on dissidents who the president claims have been incited by outside "terrorists."

Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council that the 300 observers checking to see if both sides are complying with the ceasefire pact are in serious jeopardy from heavy weapons, armor-piercing bullets and surveillance drones.

Syrian forces are using what they can to chase monitors away from areas where they've been accused of staging attacks on civilians, according to Ban Ki-Moon.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Syrian Activists Say Dozens Killed in Massacre

JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Dozens of Syrians were massacred in a village near the central city of Hama, the country’s fourth-largest killing, opposition activists said Thursday. They accuse the Syrian military of shelling Mazraat al-Qubair before a pro-regime militia stormed it with guns and knives, shooting residents at close range.

The unverified account, which the government has denied, would be similar to the massacre that took place in the town of Houla two weeks ago. The government said that killing left 108 people dead.

Wednesday’s alleged massacre came a day before the United Nations was set to meet on Syria and hear a briefing by special envoy Kofi Annan. The meetings will focus on finding a new direction for Annan’s U.N.-backed six-point peace plan, which called for a ceasefire but has been roundly ignored by both the regime and those fighting it.

As for the alleged massacre, Gen. Robert Mood, the head of the U.N. Supervision Mission in Syria, said Thursday in a statement, “UNSMIS dispatched UN Observers to Mazraat al-Qubeir, early Thursday morning, to verify reports of large-scale killings in the village. The observers have not yet been able to reach the village. ”

The United Nations has 300 monitors in Syria.

Videos of al-Qubair posted online by activists show a row of dead bodies in a room. Several are young children; some are visibly charred while others are covered in blankets. But no video evidence has yet emerged to match the scale of the alleged massacre, which the Local Coordination Committees of Syria says killed more than 80 people.

Another activist group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, says it has the names of 23 people killed. Eyewitnesses say that after the village was shelled, pro-government militia, known as “shabiha,” entered. They reportedly burned homes and shot and stabbed villagers.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Syrian Opposition Claims Dozens Killed in Hama Massacre

JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- Opposition activists in Syria claim that the military has carried out yet another massacre, this time leaving at least 78 people dead.

The opposition says the slayings took place Wednesday in Mazraat al-Qubair, near the central city of Hama.  They say the small village was stormed by pro-government militia armed with guns and knives following a shelling by regime forces.

The Syrian government has denied the account.  Unverified video shows a row of bodies, some charred, but there is no video evidence of the scores that opposition groups say were killed.  

A United Nations spokeswoman tells ABC News the monitors in Syria have not been able to access the site.

Wednesday's massacre comes after more than 100 civilians were killed late last month in the city of Houla.  Since Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government began its crackdown on dissidents 15 months ago, its estimated that 13,000 people have died.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


American Soldier Suspected in Afghan Massacre Gets New Charges 

US Army(FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan.) -- Army prosecutors have dropped one of the 17 murder charges against Staff Sgt. Robert Bales for his alleged shooting rampage against Afghan civilians this past March.

Prosecutors also have added charges that he used alcohol and steroids during his deployment to Afghanistan.  

During the pre-dawn hours of March 11, Bales is alleged to have snuck out of his remote combat outpost on two occasions to shoot Afghans in two villages close to his base in western Kandahar province.   

Afghan and U.S. officials said at the time that 16 non-combatants were killed in the shooting rampage. However, when the criminal charges were filed, they alleged Bales was responsible for 17 counts of murder.  Defense officials at the time said the criminal investigation had turned up evidence of a 17th victim.    

An Army statement announcing the amended charges said the reduction in the number of murder charges “conform to developments in the ongoing investigation surrounding Staff Sgt. Bales’ alleged crimes on March 11, 2012.”

An Army official said further investigation and review of the incident with Afghan authorities and the families of victims has determined there were 16 murder victims.

Bales is also charged with a single count of “wrongfully consuming alcoholic beverages within the country of Afghanistan,” which matches reporting by ABC News and other outlets that Bales had used alcohol prior to the shooting incident.

In addition to the murder charges, Bales also faces six charges of attempted murder and a new seventh charge of assault.  There are also “two specifications of wrongfully possessing and using a Schedule III controlled substance [steroids].”  The charge sheets identify the steroid as stanozolol.

Bales is currently being detained at a military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio