Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Afghan massacre too big for lone US soldier: police

A lone shooter could not have committed the massacre of 16 Afghan villagers blamed on a US soldier, a witness testified, stressing the scale of the atrocity.

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Washington // A lone shooter could not have committed the massacre of 16 Afghan villagers blamed on a US soldier, a witness testified late Sunday, stressing the scale of the atrocity.

The defense witness said the extent of the carnage, wrought overnight in two villages near a US army base in March, was too great for it to be the work of only Sergeant Robert Bales, facing a possible court martial.

"One person cannot do this work," said Khudai Dad of the Afghan Uniform Police, who searched the scene of the killings the next morning. "One person doesn't have the courage to go from one village to another in the night."

Sgt Bales, balding with close-cropped blond hair and wearing standard army combat uniform, showed no emotion as he watched the testimony on a small monitor placed in front of him.

He faces 16 counts of murder, six of attempted murder, seven of assault, two of using drugs and one of drinking alcohol. Seventeen of the 22 victims were women or children and almost all were shot in the head.

The 39-year-old allegedly left his base in the Panjwayi district of Kandahar province on the night of March 11 to commit the killings, which included nine children. He allegedly set several of their bodies on fire.

Prosecutors at a pre-trial hearing, held on an army base south of Seattle, have alleged that Bales left the base twice to carry out the killings, returning in between and even telling a colleague what he had done.

For the last three nights it has heard testimony by video link from southern Afghanistan -- held at night to allow witnesses to give their accounts during the daytime.

Mr Dad, the last witness to appear by video link, said he believed the two attacks must have happened simultaneously.

He said he went first to the US base, then to what was described as the first crime scene. Although the Afghan National Army (ANA) were only supposed to secure the scene until he arrived, some shell casings were missing.

"The ANA was there before I (arrived). They picked up all the shell casings, all the rounds," he said, adding that he himself had found a total of 13 shells.

In one house, "there was blood in the entrance when the woman came to the front door and was shot," said Dad, slight man with a mustache and spectacles.

After searching three homes in the two villages involved, he said he was struck by the impression that more than one person would have had to be involved.

"I was thinking this is not a thing that one person can do," he said, while adding that he believed the attacks occurred at the same time as each other, somewhere between midnight and 3:00 am.

The massacre is thought to be the deadliest crime by a US soldier during the decade-long conflict and tested Washington and Kabul's already tense relationship to the limit.

The so-called Article 32 pre-trial hearing, to decide whether Sgt Bales should face a court martial, started on November 5 and is expected to wrap up this week, in theory on Tuesday.

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Syrian President Bashar Al Assad during his visit to the predominantly Christian city of Maaloula on April 20. Sanaa / EPA

A coronation not an election, says Syrian refugee

The international community was quick to reject the idea that Syria's upcoming presidential elections will be free and fair.

 Brazilians play altinha, a spin-off of football played on the beach, as others gather on Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Altinha is Portuguese for “a little higher” and involves players attempting to keep the ball in the air without using their hands. Brazilians play many spin-offs of football including altinha, footvolley and futsal. Brazil is gearing up to host the 2014 Fifa World Cup in June. Mario Tama / Getty

Best photography from around the world, April 22

The National View's photo editors pick the best images of the day from around the world.

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greeted by university students as he leaves Sistan University in Sistan and Baluchestan’s provincial capital of Zahedan on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

In Iran’s most troubled province, Rouhani hears pleas for change

Hassan Rounani aims to connect with residents of far-flung Sistan and Baluchestan province.

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greets supporters after his arrival in Zahedan, the regional capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. During Mr Rouhani's two-day visit, he will tour several other cities and hold meetings with local scholars and entrepreneurs. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

On the road with Hassan Rouhani

Iran's president is touring some of Iran's most underdeveloped provinces. Foreign correspondent Yeganeh Salehi is traveling with him.

 Prince Bandar bin Sultan in Riyadh on March 3, 2007. Hassan Ammar / AFP Photo

Saudi Prince Bandar promised a victory he could not deliver

Saudi Arabia's controversial intelligence chief stepped down this week after rumours that his policies on Syria had fallen out of favour.

 Aiza Tonida puts out laundry amid the ruins of her parents home in Leyte province that was destroyed when Typhoon Haiyan struck central Philippines on November 8, 2013. Joey Reyna for The National

Filipinos seek Middle East jobs to rebuild lives after Haiyan

Work in the GCC seen as only hope for thousands left homeless and jobless after devastating storm in November.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National