Stories of the March 11 massacre came, one by one, over live video link from Afghanistan into a military courtroom outside Seattle — torched bodies; a son finding his wounded father; boys cowering behind a curtain while others screamed “We are children! We are children!”
As the Afghans recounted the horror that left 16 dead in the darkness early on March 11, Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, the U.S. soldier accused of carrying out the rampage, sat quietly in the courtroom. He gave no discernible reaction to the stories he heard.
At one point, Staff Sgt. Sergeant Robert Bales moved closer to a large monitor showing the testimony. At other times, he watched as it played on a laptop screen in front of him. Either way, Staff Sergeant Robert Bales he gave no discernible reaction to the stories he heard.
Speaking through an interpreter, one Afghan closed his remarks with the words — “My request is to get justice.”
The hearing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord is meant to help determine whether Bales (39), will face a court-martial in the deaths of the seven adults and nine children. He could face the death penalty if he is convicted.
Bales, an Ohio native and father of two from Lake Tapps, Washington, has not entered a plea and was not expected to testify. His attorneys have not discussed the evidence, but say he has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and suffered a concussive head injury while serving in Iraq.
The hearing, which began on Monday, was held overnight on Friday to accommodate the Afghan witnesses.
They recounted the villagers who lived in the attacked compounds and listed the names of those killed, to provide a record of the lives lost. The youngest witness was Sadiquallah, a slight boy of about 13 or 14who described being awakened screaming that an American had “killed our men”.
The other child was hit in the thigh and also survived. He is scheduled to testify on Saturday night.
As those two were hiding, Sadiquallah’s older brother, Quadratullah, sought refuge with other children in a different part of the house. When the gunman found them, Quadratullah testified, the children scrambled, yelling “We are children! We are children!”
The boys’ father, Haji Mohammed Naim, was the first person shot at the home. He testified that he was awoken by shots and dogs barking. He asked his wife to light a lantern, and saw the shooter climb over a compound wall.
“He jumped from the wall, and I just saw the light on his head,” Mr. Naim said. “He just started shooting me.”
One older son, Faizullah, recalled being awoken by someone telling him there had been a shooting at his father’s compound. He rushed there to find him with a gunshot wound to the throat. One of Mr. Naim’s daughters was also wounded, as were two neighbour siblings.
Faizullah said he loaded the wounded into a car, using a blanket to lift some of them. They were treated at a nearby base, and then flown to a bigger military hospital in Kandahar. All five survived.