U.S. soldiers face murder charges in death of Afghan civiliansIn one of the most serious war crimes cases to emerge from the nine-year war in Afghanistan, five U.S. soldiers from a Stryker brigade in the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division have been charged with murder for allegedly killing three Afghan civilians.
While they were on patrol, the soldiers threw grenades at two of the Afghans and shot them, according to charging documents. The third civilian also was shot, and anyone who dared to report the events was threatened with violence, according to statements made to investigators.
The accused soldiers are with the 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma, Wash., Some 3,700 soldiers in the brigade were deployed throughout southern Afghanistan, involved both in combat and in wide-ranging efforts to open schools, train Afghan forces, improve agriculture and take other measures to win the support of civilians.
All five accused soldiers are awaiting court-martial proceedings, and their families have retained civilian attorneys to aid in their defense. If convicted, they face the possibility of life imprisonment or death.
The Seattle Times has reviewed court documents filed by a defense attorney with a U.S. Army magistrate that summarize some of the evidence in the case. The Times also has interviewed attorneys for three of the defendants. The documents provide new insight into how the alleged murder plot may have evolved, but they offer few clues about the soldiers’ motives.