Victims' families testify about night of massacre in Afghanistan



JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. - Survivors of a shooting spree in Kandahar, Afghanistan testified Saturday morning over video seen in a courtroom at Joint Base Lewis-McChord against a soldier accused of killing 16 villagers last March.


Sgt. Robert Bales, 39, sat quietly in a courtroom at JBLM watching a video monitor from Kandahar as a man named Khamal described the slaying of his family, including women and children.


According to the Army, Bales opened fire in a village during the middle of the night on March 11 killing 16 people. Nine of the victims were children.


Prosecutors said Bales broke his shooting spree into two episodes, attacking one village, returning to the base and then departing again.


Bales has been charged with 16 counts of premeditated murder and six counts of attempted murder.


During the night of the shooting rampage, Khamal said he heard there was trouble at his cousin’s house and ran to his family’s compound. When he arrived, he found his cousin’s mother shot in the head at the entrance. He said his family was killed in their rooms and dragged into another room that was set on fire.


Khamal told the court one girl was 4 years old and another was 5 years old, and they were both shot in the head and appeared to have been kicked with boot marks on their faces. He also explained how a 2-year-old girl was not shot, but was thrown directly on the fire.


In court, Khamal told prosecutors he removed the bodies and separated the men from the women. He observed the horrific injuries.


Khamal is the first of many family members who will testify during the hearings.


At least seven family members of the victims, including several survivors, are expected to testify during overnight hearings, which will continue throughout the weekend.


If Bales is ultimately brought to court martial and convicted, he could face the death penalty.