10:40 p.m. update: A 7-year-old Afghan girl said she was hiding behind her father in their home when he was shot to death by an American soldier.
Robina, a chatty girl dressed in a red scarf, was one of two young girls to testify tonight at an evidence hearing for Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who is accused of wounding both children in a nighttime massacre that left 16 civilians dead. The Joint Base Lewis-McChord Stryker veteran could face the death penalty if his case proceeds to a court-martial.
Robina’s father, Nazar Mohammed, was among the dead. She said he was cursing at the American who entered a home belonging to her family that night when the soldier shot her father in the neck and chest.
A bullet struck her in the knee as she hid behind him.
“I didn’t realize I was shot until later,” she said.
Robina said she is fine now. She described several months of recovery in a hospital, and she seemed to walk fine from the tight images of her that appeared in court at Lewis-McChord.
The other 7-year-old girl had more trouble walking. Zardana was shot in the head and nearly died on the night of the killings. The military sent her to a Navy hospital in San Diego for advanced care.
She and her father, Samiullah, spent three months there. They even went sight-seeing, Samiullah testified tonight.
Zardana wore a shiny purple dress and she wrapped her hair with a purple scarf. She smiled at a screen showing the Lewis-McChord courtroom at the NATO base in Kandahar in which she testified.
“I’m not going to lie,” she said when she was sworn in.
Both girls were wounded in the village of Alkozai, the first community Bales allegedly attacked on March 11.
Zardana’s brother, Rafiullah, also was wounded during the killings. He testified tonight that he saw a soldier shoot and kill their grandmother, Nikmarghah.
He told a McClatchy reporter in April that he woke up his grandmother on the night of the massacre when he heard gunfire. In the house, he described a depraved scene.
The soldier “came, he put a pistol in my sister’s mouth and then my grandmother started wrestling with him,” said Rafiullah, 14, who was shot in his legs that night.
8:45 p.m. update: Defense attorneys mining witnesses for clues of accomplices in Panjwai massacre
Staff Sgt. Robert Bales’ defense attorneys are mining conflicting witness statements to draw out reports of multiple soldiers being involved in a massacre that left 16 Afghan civilians dead in Kandahar Province’s Panjwai District.
The Army believes Bales carried out the killings by himself in two separate trips out of Village Stability Platform Belambay in the early hours of March 11, first to the village of Alkozai and then to the village of Najiban.
Bales, a four-time Stryker combat veteran, is in court tonight at Joint Base Lewis-McChord for the sixth day of an evidence hearing that could lead to a death-penalty court-martial. Six Afghan witnesses are scheduled to testify tonight through a video link to a NATO base in Kandahar.
Prosecutors over the past week have called on several of Bales’ alleged victims who insisted they saw only one shooter, as well as Bales’ fellow soldiers who testified that he was the only person missing from their ranks at Belambay.
Tonight, the defense called a Criminal Investigation Command agent who interviewed the wife of a man killed in Najiban on March 11. The widow reported seeing two Americans enter her room, take her husband Mohammed Dawood outside and execute him with a pistol to his head.
The widow told 1st Agent Leona Mansapit that she overheard multiple Americans speaking English in the compounds around her home. The widow also reported hearing helicopters overhead and seeing multiple flares shot in the sky.
No Americans have testified about hearing helicopters on the night of the killings. Several said they shot flares, either to investigate gunfire they heard or to look for Bales when they realized he was missing.
The prosecution on Monday played a video that showed a single figure walking to Belambay from the direction of Dawood’s village and turning himself into Americans at Belambay in the hours after the killings in Najiban.
In later testimony, an Afghan teenager who suffered a gunshot wound to his leg on the night of the killings testified from Kandahar that he saw one American soldier that night.
Defense attorney John Henry Browne reminded Rafiullah that he has told another one of Bales’ defense attorneys that multiple soldiers were in the fields around his home. Tonight, Rafiullah distanced himself from that statement.
The boy said he was scared that more Americans were in the fields around his village of Alkozai.
“I might have told (the defense attorney) that, but I don’t remember,” he said.