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.”


Airlines halt China flights as coronavirus toll hits 132

Updated 29 January 2020

Airlines halt China flights as coronavirus toll hits 132

  • A growing number of governments have in recent days advised their citizens to avoid non-essential travel to China
  • British Airways was the first major airline to announce a total suspension of flights to and from China

WUHAN, China: Foreign airlines began suspending flights to and from China on Wednesday as global fears mounted over a coronavirus epidemic that has killed 132 people and infected nearly 6,000.
The announcements came hours after countries began airlifts to evacuate foreigners trapped in Wuhan, the quarantined central Chinese city of 11 million people at the epicenter of the health emergency.
A growing number of governments, including the United States, Britain and Germany, have in recent days advised their citizens to avoid non-essential travel to China over concerns about the viral outbreak.
China itself on Tuesday urged its citizens to delay trips abroad to avoid spreading the limit further global contagion, with at least 15 countries having confirmed cases of the disease.
The United Arab Emirates reported the first known case in the Middle East on Wednesday.
British Airways was the first major airline to announce a total suspension of flights to and from China, citing the travel advice of the foreign office.
“We apologize to customers for the inconvenience, but the safety of our customers and crew is always our priority,” BA said in a statement on Wednesday.
Indonesia’s Lion Air Group, Southeast Asia’s biggest carrier by fleet size, then said it would halt services to and from China from Saturday “until further notice.”
In Myanmar, the three airlines that have routes into neighboring China also said those flights would also be suspended from Saturday.
Cathay Pacific also cut flights, citing low demand and the Hong Kong government’s response plan against the virus.
And in one of the most dramatic measures, the tiny Pacific nation of Papua New Guinea announced Wednesday that travelers from Asia would not be allowed in.
However, many other airlines said they were continuing their China services.
China has taken other extraordinary measures to try and stop the disease spreading, including bans on tour groups traveling overseas, suspending schools and extending the Lunar New Year holiday.
Authorities also last week imposed transport bans in and around Wuhan in an unprecedented quarantine effort, leaving more than 50 million people shuttered in their homes.
“This is the first day since the lockdown that I’ve had to go out,” a man in his 50s said on the mostly deserted streets of the industrial city on Wednesday.
“I have no choice because I need to buy food today.”
Thousands of foreigners have been among those trapped in Wuhan, which has become a near ghost-town with car travel banned and residents staying indoors.
Countries have scrambled for days to try and get their citizens out of Wuhan safely, but have faced huge logistical, medical and bureaucratic hurdles.
A US charter flight left Wuhan on Wednesday with about 200 Americans on board, including consulate staff.
Another 200 people were aboard a Japanese flight which landed in Tokyo on Wednesday morning.
Medical professionals were on the plane to carry out checks but officials said they had no legal basis to forcibly quarantine people who have not tested positive for the virus.
They would instead be asked to remain at home and avoid crowds until the results of the tests were known.
Other countries were planning more stringent quarantine measures, with Australia to evacuate its citizens from Wuhan and temporarily house them on an island normally used to detain asylum seekers.
France said it would keep its returnees in a holding facility in Paris for 14 days — the estimated incubation period for the virus.
Meanwhile, the virus continued to spread and kill in China.
The number of confirmed cases across the country climbed to 5,974, while the death toll nationwide jumped 26 to 132.
The scale of the deepening crisis was emphasized with the total number of infections on the Chinese mainland exceeding that of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2002-03.
SARS, another respiratory coronavirus, went on to claim nearly 800 lives around the world, with most of those fatalities in mainland China and Hong Kong.
The virus is believed to have originated in a wild-animal market in Wuhan, where it jumped to humans before spreading across the country as the peak travel period for Lunar New Year festivities got under way.
The World Health Organization said Tuesday it would send urgently dispatch international experts to China “to guide global response efforts.”
Until Tuesday, all reported cases overseas had involved people who had been in or around Wuhan.
But Japan and Germany then reported the first confirmed human-to-human transmission of the illness outside China. Vietnam is investigating another case.
Germany now has four confirmed cases, all of them employees at a Bavarian firm recently visited by a Chinese colleague, health officials said.
The US asked China on Tuesday to step up its cooperation with international health authorities over the epidemic.
Washington had offered China assistance three times so far without success, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters.
The virus has rattled global markets and started to dent an already-slowing Chinese economy.
Japanese automaker Toyota said Wednesday it would keep its plants in China closed until at least February 9 in part due to government guidelines.
Apple was closely watching the outbreak in China, home to the firm’s third-biggest consumer market and much of its supply chain, chief executive Tim Cook said.
Global coffee chain Starbucks said it expected a significant earnings hit after closing more than half of its stores across China.