Death penalty wanted in Afghan massacre case in US

Updated 14 November 2012

Death penalty wanted in Afghan massacre case in US

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Washington: US Army prosecutors on Tuesday requested a death penalty court-martial for a soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers in a predawn rampage, saying that Staff Sgt. Robert Bales committed “heinous and despicable crimes.”
Prosecutors asked an investigative officer to make the recommendation after the end of a hearing that included remote testimony from witnesses in Afghanistan, including a 7-year-old girl who described hiding behind her father as he was shot dead.
Bales, 39, is accused of slipped away from his remote base to attack two villages early on March 11. Among the dead were nine children. He faces 16 counts of premeditated murder and six counts of attempted murder.
The killings drew such angry protests that the US temporarily halted combat operations in Afghanistan, and it was three weeks before American investigators could reach the crime scenes.
“Terrible, terrible things happened,” said the prosecutor, Maj. Rob Stelle.
Several soldiers testified that Bales returned to the base alone just before dawn, covered in blood, and that he made incriminating statements such as, “I thought I was doing the right thing.”
An attorney for Bales argued there’s not enough information to move forward with the court-martial. Emma Scanlan said that Bales’ state of mind on the evening of the killings was still unknown.
The investigating officer said Tuesday that he would have a written recommendation by the end of the week. The ultimate decision would be made by the three-star general on the base, Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state.
None of the Afghan witnesses were able to identify Bales as the shooter, but other evidence, including tests of the blood on his clothes, implicated him, according to testimony from a DNA expert.
The lead prosecutor has said that on the night of the killings Bales watched a movie about a former CIA agent on a revenge killing spree, while drinking contraband whiskey. The lead prosecutor said Bales first attacked one village, returned to his base, then headed out again to attack a second village before returning to his base covered in blood.
Scanlan raised the issue of post-traumatic stress disorder and brain injury, noting that Bales had received a screening at the traumatic brain injury clinic at an Army medical center during a period of time that the center is under investigation for reversing hundreds of PTSD diagnoses.
When asked if Bales had ever been diagnosed with PTSD, Scanlan said, “I’m not going to answer that right now.”
Bales’ wife, Kari, and her sister, Stephanie Tandberg, met with reporters briefly after the hearing concluded. Tandberg read a statement, saying “we all grieve deeply for the Afghani families who lost their loved ones on March 11, but we must all not rush to judgment.”


World political and religious leaders denounce deadly terror attack in French church

Updated 30 October 2020

World political and religious leaders denounce deadly terror attack in French church

  • Attacker killed three at the Basilica of Notre-Dame in Nice

JEDDAH: Political and religious leaders worldwide united in condemnation on Thursday after a man wielding a knife beheaded a woman and killed two other people in a church in the French city of Nice.
The attacker, Brahim Aouissaoui, 21, a Tunisian migrant, was shot six times by police as he fled the Basilica of Notre-Dame, and taken to hospital for treatment.
President Emmanuel Macron said France had been attacked by an Islamist terrorist “over our values, for our taste for freedom, for the ability on our soil to have freedom of belief. And I say it with lots of clarity again today, we will not give any ground.”
The attack took place as Muslims observed the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. A spokesman for the French Council for the Muslim Faith said: “As a sign of mourning and solidarity with the victims and their loved ones, I call on all Muslims in France to cancel all the celebrations of the holiday.”
Saudi Arabia condemned the attack. “We reiterate the Kingdom’s categorical rejection of such extremist acts that are inconsistent with all religions, human beliefs and common sense, and we affirm the importance of rejecting practices that generate hatred, violence and extremism,” the Foreign Ministry said.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation “affirmed its steadfast position rejecting the phenomenon of hyperbole, extremism and terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, whatever the causes and motives, calling for avoiding practices that lead to hate and violence.”

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Arab and Muslim leaders drew a distinction between Islam and violent acts that claimed to defend it. At Al-Azhar in Cairo, the center of Sunni Muslim learning, Grand Mufti Ahmed Al-Tayeb denounced the murders as a “hateful terror act.” He said: “There is nothing that justifies these heinous terror acts which are contrary to Islam’s teachings.”
Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri voiced his “strongest condemnation and disapproval of the heinous criminal attack,” and urged Muslims “to reject this criminal act that has nothing to do with Islam or the prophet.”
There was condemnation from US President Donald Trump, UN chief Antonio Guterres, and European, Arab and Israeli leaders. “Our hearts are with the people of France. America stands with our oldest ally in this fight,” Trump tweeted.
Thursday’s attack began at about 9 a.m. when Aouissaoui burst into the church in Avenue Jean Medecin, the French Riviera city’s main shopping street. He slit the throat of a church worker, beheaded an elderly woman, and badly wounded another woman.
The church official and the elderly woman died at the scene. The third victim escaped to a nearby cafe, where she died from her wounds.
Nice’s Mayor, Christian Estrosi, compared the attack to the beheading this month near Paris of teacher Samuel Paty, who had used cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a civics class.
The cartoons caused widespread offense in the Muslim world when they were published five years ago in a Danish newspaper and a French satirical magazine. Their re-emergence has led to anti-French protests in several Muslim-majority countries.