The Afghan children awoke in the dead of night with a terrifying warning: An American soldier was in their village, and he had shot at least one man to death.
He killed my man, their neighbors wife cried as she barged into their home.
Sadiqullah, 13, hid behind a curtain. His older brother, Quadratullah, shouted We are children! We are children! only to see the soldier shoot his sister.
Haji Mohammed Naim, the father of the household, saw the American approach and asked What are you doing?
The soldier shot him at close range, here, here and here, Naim testified early Saturday, gesturing to wounds in his neck and upper torso.
Naim and his sons were among seven Afghan witnesses testifying from Afghanistans Kandahar province in an extraordinary judicial hearing weighing evidence against Joint Base Lewis-McChords Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who allegedly murdered 16 Afghan civilians and wounded six more in a nighttime rampage March 11.
Bales could face the death penalty if his case proceeds to a court-martial. He watched the Afghan testimony intently Friday night, alternating between a television screen showing the testimony from Kandahar and another on a laptop at his table. His wife, Kari, also attended the hearing.
The Afghans testified on the fifth day of the evidence hearing over a video link that piped their testimony into a Lewis-McChord courtroom from Camp Nathan Smith in Kandahar. They gave haunting accounts of violence in Naims home in the village of Alkozai and the aftermath of another slaughter Bales allegedly committed in the village of Najiban.
This is my request: Justice, said Mullah Khamal Adin, who lost 11 relatives in Najiban.
Adin was not a witness to the massacre, but he collected the corpses of his family members when villagers called him and told him that something terrible had happened in the home of his cousin, Haji Mohammed Wazir.
Adin, 39, found an uncles wife, Shatara, shot to death at the entrance. When I grabbed her, half of her head fell down and her eyes fell on the ground.
He moved into another room where he found a pile of naked, burned corpses. Adin said he could still smell smoke.
Seven of the bodies belong to children younger than 15. Four were children younger than 5. Several of the young ones had boot marks on their faces.
He speculated that someone threw 2-year-old Palwasha on the fire while the child was still alive.
They were all shot in their heads, Adin said. Their brains were still on their pillows.
Adin testified in a stoic manner, tilting his head slightly for an hour on the witness stand. He wore traditional Afghan clothing, a turban and a formal shalwar khameez shirt. He recounted how he separated the males from the females in the pile, and then took their bodies to Bales combat outpost Village Stability Platform Belambay. There, villagers from Najiban protested the massacre before burying the bodies.
Defense attorneys were gentle with Adin. Bales lead attorney, John Henry Browne, began his questioning by saying, I am sorry for your loss.
Bales allegedly made two forays out of his post on the night of the killings. First he reportedly walked to Alkozai, where he allegedly killed four people and wounded three in Naims family, and second to Najiban, where he reportedly murdered Adins relatives.