Afghan villagers say shootings were revenge
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On March 13, Afghan soldier Abdul Salam showed an AP reporter the site of a blast that made a large crater in the road in Panjwai district of Kandahar province, where the shootings occurred. The soldier said the explosion occurred March 8. Salam said he helped gather men in the village, and that troops spoke to them, but he was not close enough to hear what they said.
Ghulam Rasool, a tribal elder from Panjwai district of Kandahar province, where the shootings occurred, gave an account of the bombing at a March 16 meeting in Kabul with President Hamid Karzai.
"After the incident, they took the wreckage of their destroyed tank and their wounded people from the area," Rasool said. "After that, they came back to the village nearby the explosion site.
"The soldiers called all the people to come out of their houses and from the mosque," he said.
"The Americans told the villagers, 'A bomb exploded on our vehicle. ... We will get revenge for this incident by killing at least 20 of your people,'" Rasool said. "These are the reasons why we say they took their revenge by killing women and children in the villages."
Bales' lawyer, John Henry Browne, has said that his client was upset because a buddy had lost a leg in an explosion on March 9. It's unclear if the bombing cited by Browne was the same as the one described by the villagers. After a meeting at a military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Browne said Bales told him a roadside bomb blew off the leg of one of his friends two days before the shootings occurred.
Karzai's investigative team is not convinced that one soldier could have single-handedly left his base, walked to the two villages, and carried out the killings and set fire to some of the victims' bodies. The U.S. military has said that even though its investigation is continuing, everything currently points to one shooter.
Villagers in Mokhoyan, meanwhile, are convinced that the shootings were a case of revenge.
Naek Mohammad, who lives in Mokhoyan, told the AP that he heard an explosion March 8 and went outside. As he and a neighbor talked about what happened, he said, two Afghan soldiers ordered them to join other men from the village who had been told to stand against a wall.
"One of the villagers asked what was happening," he said. "The Afghan army soldier told him, 'Shut up and stand there.'"
Mohammad said a U.S. soldier, speaking through a translator, then said: "I know you are all involved and you support the insurgents. So now, you will pay for it — you and your children will pay for this.'"
None of the villagers could identify the soldier who they said issued the threat.