Afghan civilians and army personnel testified by video link on Friday night and Saturday morning about what happened on the night of a massacre in Afghanistan in March that is alleged to have been conducted by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales.
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. — A man who was wounded during a massacre in Afghanistan in March testified early Saturday at a hearing for the U.S. soldier accused in the attack that he saw a gunman climb over the wall outside his home and start shooting.
Haji Mohammed Naim testified through an interpreter and by live video feed from Kandahar during a preliminary hearing for Staff Sgt. Robert Bales at a military base outside Seattle.
Bales is charged with 16 counts of premeditated murder in a March 11 attack on two villages and could face the death penalty if convicted.
Naim said he was in bed when he heard gunshots and dogs barking. He says the gunman climbed over the wall of his compound and then the man came up close and shot him.
His son, Sadiquallah, a slight boy whose head rose just above the back of the seat he was sitting in, testified earlier that a neighbor woke him up when she screamed that an American had "killed our men." He said he and another boy ran to hide in a storage room and ducked behind a curtain.
Sadiquallah said the shooter had a gun and a light, but he did not identify the person as Bales. Doctors have said a bullet grazed the boy's head, and that the other child was hit in the thigh and also survived.
"I was hiding behind the curtains. A bullet hit me," the boy said, who is 13 or 14 and whose ears stuck out from beneath his white cap.
Earlier, a relative of some of the victims killed in the massacre said he found their bodies piled together and burned. Khamal Adin sat at the witness table with his arms folded, his head tilted to the left.
As Adin recounted what he had seen, Bales rose from his chair at the defense table in the courtroom at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and moved to a seat closest to the video screen that played Adin's testimony.
He gave no discernible reaction to the story he heard.
After Adin concluded his testimony, the Afghan offered his thanks, adding: "My request is to get justice."
On the morning after the killings, Adin said, he arrived at a compound belonging to his cousin, Mohammed Wazir. Wazir had been away on a trip, and he found Wazir's mother lying dead in a doorway, a gunshot to her head.
Further inside, Adin said, he found the bodies of six of his cousin's seven children, the man's wife, and other relatives. The fire that burned the bodies was out, but Adin said he could smell smoke.
The video feed was shown as part of a preliminary hearing to help determine whether Bales should face a court-martial. He is charged with 16 counts of premeditated murder in the attack.
On the video, Adin, who had a beard and was wearing a turban, was asked if he could testify that he personally saw the bodies. He answered: "Yes, I have seen each individual and took them out by myself."
Asked to describe the injuries, he said: "Everybody was shot on the head. ... I didn't pay attention to the rest of the wounds."
With the bodies quickly buried and no forensic evidence available from them, prosecutors need such testimony to prove the killings occurred.
Sadiquallah's older brother, Faizullah, testified about rushing to his father's home to find his father with a gunshot wound to the throat. Faizullah's sister was also wounded, as were two neighbor siblings.
Faizullah said he loaded them into a car, using a blanket to lift some of them. They were treated at a nearby base, then flown to a bigger military hospital in Kandahar. All five survived.
Earlier, two Afghan National Army guards recounted what they had seen in the pre-dawn darkness outside the base the night of the killings.
One guard recounted that a man had arrived at the base and did not stop even after he asked him three times to do so. Later in the night, the second guard said, he saw a soldier leave the base — laughing as he went.
The guards did not say the soldier was the same person nor did they identify the man as Bales.
Prosecutors say Bales broke his shooting rampage into two episodes, attacking one village, returning to the base and then departing again to raid another.
Dressed in green fatigues, the first guard, named Nematullah, testified that he had told the man who arrived around 1:30 a.m. to stop. The guard said the man came toward him, said "how are you" in an Afghan language and went inside the base.
Under cross-examination from Bales' attorney, John Henry Browne, who traveled to Afghanistan to question the witnesses, the guard said he saw the man but could not identify him.
Browne pressed further, asking if the guard could describe the soldier at all. The guard said he was white and well built, but those were the only details he could provide.
Nematullah also said the soldier was coming from the north, which is the direction of a village that prosecutors say Bales attacked first in the nighttime rampage.
Later, a second guard, Tosh Ali, said he replaced Nematullah and saw an American leaving the base around 2:30 a.m. The man greeted Ali as well with "how are you" in an Afghan language, and was laughing as he walked away.
Bales, an Ohio native and father of two from Lake Tapps, Wash., faces 16 counts of premeditated murder and six counts of attempted murder in the attack.
Prosecutors say that Bales wore a T-shirt, cape and night-vision goggles — no body armor — when he slipped away from his remote post, Camp Belambay.
In between his attacks, he woke a fellow soldier, reported what he'd done and said he was headed out to kill more, the soldier testified. But the soldier didn't believe what Bales said, and went back to sleep.