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World/National News

August 21, 2013

Afghan massacre victim takes stand, curses gunman

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Washington (AP) — The first of nine Afghan villagers has taken the witness stand in the sentencing of the U.S. soldier who massacred 16 civilians in Kandahar Province last year.

Haji Mohammad Naim appeared Tuesday in the courtroom at Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Seattle. Speaking through an interpreter, he promptly referred to the gunman, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, as a “bastard.”

Naim said he has lingering numbness in his hand and a stutter since he was shot in the neck from just a few feet away.

Bales pleaded guilty in June to avoid the death penalty for killing 16 civilians and wounding six others, mostly women and children. The six jurors must decide whether he is sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole or without it.

Bales felt “inadequate as a soldier and as a man” when he left his remote post in Afghanistan in the middle of the night last year and attacked two mud-walled villages, gunning down men, screaming children and elderly women, a prosecutor told jurors Tuesday.

Bales pleaded guilty in June to avoid the death penalty for killing 16 civilians and wounding six others, mostly women and children, in the March 11, 2012, assaults. In the sentencing hearing that began Tuesday, the six jurors must decide whether he is sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole or without it.

An Army prosecutor, Lt. Col. Jay Morse, opened the government’s case by reading a 32-page “stipulation of facts” — an unbearably gruesome recitation of Bales’ actions that night, describing how he executed a young girl who was screaming for him to stop beating her father, how he fired indiscriminately into rooms full of children and how he slaughtered 11 members of a single family, many of them still asleep on their blankets.

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