US Navy SEAL bragged about killing captive in Iraq, prosecutor tells jurors

US Navy SEAL Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher arrives at court with his wife Andrea and brother Sean (L) for the start of his court-martial trial at Naval Base San Diego in San Diego, California, on June 18, 2019. (REUTERS/Mike Blake)
Updated 19 June 2019

US Navy SEAL bragged about killing captive in Iraq, prosecutor tells jurors

  • Gallagher initially began treating the teen militant’s wounds, jury told
  • After that, Gallagher pulled a knife from his medical bag and repeatedly stabbed the boy in the neck

SAN DIEGO, California: A decorated Navy SEAL stabbed to death a wounded and captive teenage Daesh fighter in Iraq and then bragged about it, a military prosecutor told jurors Tuesday during opening statements in a politically charged court-martial.
Lt. Brian John projected a photo of the dead prisoner in the military courtroom, along with a text message Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher sent to friends with the image.
“Good story behind this,” Gallagher wrote. “Got him with my hunting knife.”
The defense told the jury that Gallagher treated the militant’s wounds and didn’t kill him.
Attorney Tim Parlatore, who has claimed the text was an attempt at dark humor, said there’s no body, autopsy or forensic evidence to show a killing happened. He says the case was built on lies by junior SEALs who hated Gallagher because he was tough.
“This case is not about murder,” Parlatore said. “It’s about mutiny. He didn’t murder or attempt to murder anyone.”
Gallagher, whose case has drawn President Donald Trump’s attention, faces seven counts that include premeditated murder and attempted murder. He’s also accused of shooting two civilians — an elderly man and a school-age girl — from sniper perches in Iraq in 2017. He has pleaded not guilty and could face a life sentence.
The trial, which is expected to last up to three weeks, is exposing fractures in the secrecy that typically shrouds the elite special forces as fellow troops testify against Gallagher, who had served eight tours of duty and earned two Bronze Stars for valor.
Lt. Thomas MacNeil, who has roomed with Gallagher, testified that their SEAL team provided support to Iraqi forces clearing an area outside Mosul when he heard a radio transmission on May 3, 2017, that an airstrike had wounded a Daesh fighter.
“I heard Chief Gallagher announce, ‘Lay off, he’s mine,’” MacNeil said.
Gallagher initially began treating the teen militant’s wounds, which was caught on video the jury will see, prosecutors said. The question is what happened after the footage stopped.
John said the wounded prisoner, described as a curly-haired adolescent, was in stable condition after treatment.
After another SEAL left his side, Gallagher pulled a knife from his medical bag and repeatedly stabbed the boy in the neck, John said. Another SEAL saw the assault and said blood was pouring out of the teen.
Parlatore said the militant died of his injuries from the airstrike and noted that Iraqi forces had been with him two hours before Gallagher became the first to treat him.
After the boy died, Gallagher had his re-enlistment ceremony conducted with the body and posed with fellow troops for photos.
Gallagher held the detainee by the hair with one hand and his knife in the other as photos were shot, said MacNeil, who posed in some pictures with the body.
MacNeil testified that the photos were inappropriate because he was taught to not disgrace casualties on the battlefield.
The defense does not dispute that Gallagher posed with the corpse.
“Was the photo in poor taste? Probably,” Parlatore told jurors in his opening statement. “Was the photo evidence of murder? No.”
The jury is composed of five enlisted men, including a Navy SEAL and four Marines, plus a Navy commander and a Marine chief warrant officer. Most of the jurors have served in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Gallagher’s defense has been championed by his family and some congressional Republicans who have claimed that he’s a hero getting railroaded. Trump intervened to get Gallagher removed from the brig as he awaited trial and is said to be considering a pardon for him.
Gallagher’s accusers are cowards who wanted to derail his nomination for a Silver Star for valor and a promotion to teach urban warfare, Parlatore said.
MacNeil said Gallagher and Lt. Jacob Portier ordered other sailors to delete photos of the militant.
Portier faces a separate trial on charges of conduct unbecoming an officer for holding Gallagher’s re-enlistment ceremony with the body.
After returning to San Diego from their deployment, MacNeil said he got a text to stay after work one day for a meeting in the parking lot, where he encountered Portier and Gallagher.
He said Gallagher rushed at him, grabbed his face and said, “You take me down, I’ll take all you down.”


‘Clear risks’ for stability in China’s Pacific lending, Australian think tank warns

Updated 23 min 11 sec ago

‘Clear risks’ for stability in China’s Pacific lending, Australian think tank warns

SYDNEY: China’s financial largesse in the Pacific carries “clear risks” for stability if left unchecked, a Sydney think tank warned, while saying allegations of “debt-trap” diplomacy are so far overblown.
In a study released Monday, the influential Lowy Institute warned that fragile Pacific nations risked borrowing too much and leaving themselves exposed to demands from Beijing.
China has repeatedly been accused of offering lucrative but unserviceable loans to gain leverage or snap up strategically vital assets like ports, airports, or electricity providers.
While Lowy said allegations that China was engaged in “debt-trap” diplomacy in the Pacific were overblown, the trend was not positive and countries like Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu were dangerously exposed.
Between 2011 and 2018, China committed loans to the region worth $6 billion — around 21 percent of regional GDP.
A majority of that money, $4.1 billion, was earmarked for Papua New Guinea.
Only a fraction, less than $1 billion, has so far been dispersed but China is still the single largest creditor in Tonga, Samoa, and Vanuatu.
“The sheer scale of Chinese lending and the lack of strong institutional mechanisms to protect the debt sustainability of borrowing countries mean a continuation of business as usual would pose clear risks,” the report said.
The South Pacific has become a forum for intense competition for influence between China, the United States, and Australia in recent years.
The island nations sit on a vital shipping crossroad, contain vast reserves of fish stocks, and provide a potential base for leading militaries to project power well beyond their borders.
Beijing has stepped up engagement in the region through a series of high profile visits and no-conditions lending via its Belt and Road Initiative.
The Solomon Islands and Kiribati recently announced they would switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to Beijing after a long courtship by the country’s Communist leaders.
Six Pacific governments are currently debtors to Beijing — the Cook Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu.
Lowy said many of China’s loans carry a modest two percent annual interest rate.
But it warned that China would need to adopt formal lending rules if loans were to be made sustainable as natural disasters like earthquakes, cyclones and tsunamis can quickly upend countries’ ability to pay back loans.
“Three small Pacific economies — Tonga, Samoa, and Vanuatu — also appear to be among those most heavily indebted to China anywhere in the world,” it said.