U.S. investigator in Afghan rampage case suggests gunman not alone

Sun Nov 11, 2012 2:32am EST
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By Bill Rigby

TACOMA, Washington (Reuters) - The wife of an Afghan villager killed in a rampage blamed on a decorated U.S. officer told an Army investigator that more than one soldier was present when her husband was shot dead at their home in March, the investigator testified on Saturday.

Military prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, accusing him of killing 16 villagers, mostly women and children, when he ventured out of his remote camp on two revenge-fueled forays over a five-hour period in March.

The wife's account, relayed by Army criminal investigator Leona Mansapit, appeared to cast doubt on the government's case that Bales alone was responsible for the deaths, although survivors have so far testified to seeing only a single soldier.

The U.S. government, which has been laying out its case against Bales in a pre-trial hearing aimed at deciding whether he can be sent for court martial, says a coherent and lucid Bales acted alone and with "chilling premeditation".

Mansapit said that the wife of Mohamed Dawood, who was killed in the village of Najiban, recalled a gunman entering the couple's room shouting about the Taliban, while another man, a U.S. soldier, stood at the door.

The shootings in Afghanistan's Kandahar province marked the worst case of civilian slaughter blamed on an individual U.S. soldier since the Vietnam War and damaged already strained U.S.-Afghan relations.

Mansapit said the wife, who spoke to her through an interpreter, said one of the men pulled her husband out of the door, while the other stopped her from following. One of the men then put a gun to her husband's head and killed him, while the other continued to yell about the Taliban, grabbing her by the hair and slamming her head against the wall, she said.

Mansapit, who was called by the defense, recalled the woman as saying that outside there were more soldiers "speaking English among themselves". She put the woman's age at about 25 but did not name her. It was not immediately clear whether the wife would testify to the hearing herself.   Continued...

Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, (L) 1st platoon sergeant, Blackhorse Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, is seen during an exercise at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California, in this August 23, 2011 DVIDS handout photo. REUTERS/Department of Defense/Spc. Ryan Hallock/Handout