Panjwai, March 11, 2012: Eyewitnesses to the Slaughter of Innocents

For details of the U.S. Army’s investigation of this mass murder, and the commanding general’s AR 15-6 review, see the Timelines linked in the December 31, 2015 note atop Public Panjwai Massacre Facts

During the hours between midnight and dawn on Sunday, March 11, 2012, local time (March 10, U.S. time), American troop(s) – one, according to non-eyewitnesses, more than one, according to most eyewitnesses – who’d been deployed, pursuant to the September, 2001 Congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), at a small Forward Operating Base (FOB) [or Combat Outpost (COP; aerial photo, added 12/12/12)] named Camp Belambyreportedly a “U.S. special-operations forces base” – in Panjwai district, Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan, barbarically shot and killed at least 16 unarmed civilians – 9 8-10 children (six of them under Age 10), 4 4-5 women, and 3 4-7 men – in their homes and beds in two (or three) two-three, or more, nearby settlements, and wounded at least 7 others, including 5 more children.

With most families in that rural farming region of Panjwai apparently too poor even to afford guns, the only defenses those Afghan citizens had against the overwhelming force of their attacker(s) were their barking dogs; those dogs – according to two different accounts apparently originating in separate villages (one to BBC News from an unnamed woman in “Najeeban,” and one to Australian SBS-TV reporter Yalda Hakim from a wounded girl [Noorbinak, reportedly of Alkozai] who lost her father) – were the first creatures shot and killed by the heavily-armed attacker(s) that night. Attacker(s) who apparently didn’t face returning fire from even a single gun fired in self-defense by the terrorized villagers – who’ve been repeatedly subjected over the years to General Warrant-style entry-at-will into their homes by armed foreigners – targeted in either 2-3, or more, rural settlements clustered along narrow dirt lanes bordering wheat fields and vineyards. [“‘As we understand it, the special forces have the power to do whatever they want, such as conducting operations and arresting people,’ (Haji Mohammad) Noor (head of the Panjwayi district council) said.”]

Since then, as Senior Al Jazeera Producer Qais Azimy put it in a blog post on Monday, March 19:

Many mainstream media outlets channelled a significant amount of energy into uncovering the slightest detail about the accused soldier – now identified as [non-special-forces Army] Staff Sergeant Robert Bales. We even know where his wife wanted to go for vacation, or what she said on her personal blog.

But the victims became a footnote, an anonymous footnote. Just the number 16. No one bothered to ask their ages, their hobbies, their aspirations. Worst of all, no one bothered to ask their names.

In honoring their memory, I write their names below, and the little we know about them: that nine of them were children, three [or four, or five] were women.

Or, as an Everett, Washington commenter named “Filbert” put it 3/25 on the website of the Seattle Times, in response to the paper’s publication of an important March 24 Associated Press article about the victims: “Seattle Times, why do stories of Bales get plastered all over page 1 for 2 weeks, and when you finally get around to it, the story of this man [Mohammad Wazir of Balandi/Najiban, who lost 11 members of his family] is relegated to page A14?”

Azimy’s list – replicated at the foot of this post – does indeed seem to be the most comprehensive English-language account to date of the names of the killed and wounded in these small, close-knit farming communities. The U.S. government’s March 23, 2012 military Charge Sheet for Staff Sergeant Bales lists no ages for those killed, redacts all the names of the victims, and lists no name for the unknown 17th victim, evidently a female; yet the victims were apparently well-enough known to the U.S. military by Saturday, March 24 for surviving family members to receive some monetary compensation (The families of the dead, who received the money Saturday at the governor’s office, were told that the money came from U.S. President Barack Obama, said Kandahar provincial council member Agha Lalai”). The hurried early reporting does include scattered accounts of names and ages of some of the victims, but often confuses or omits their names and/or villages; their villages are likewise not specified by Azimy, nor included in the U.S. Charge Sheet. Only after Azimy’s 3/19 post was published did some more detailed and valuable English-language reporting about the victims begin to fill in some of the obvious gaps in coverage (joining an early, laudable New York Times report from March 12) – in the Wall Street Journal on March 22, at late March 22/early March 23, [in BusinessWeek March 22/23 {the BusinessWeek URL was later changed to BloombergBusiness}, including important information about a Najiban eyewitness, which I belatedly found and excerpted at the end of my follow-up July 7th post,] in the Associated Press on March 24, and in a humane opinion piece – “Are all innocent victims equal?” – by India/Kabul-based CNN International correspondent Sara Sidner, who took the time to include the names of all 16 killed (her source was Afghan officials, and her list matches the Qais Azimy list below, aside from regional differences in spelling and address).

Sara Sidner’s March 24 opinion piece compassionately echoes and reinforces Azimy’s:

These are the names of the men, women and children allegedly murdered by a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan’s Panjwai District in Kandahar Province on March 11, according to Afghan officials. The U.S. military has now added one more name to that list but no one has revealed that victim’s name so far.

In this case, the how was quickly explained by witnesses, village elders, Afghan and NATO officials: They were shot dead. But looking across local, regional and international media for days after the massacre the full list of names and ages was nowhere to be found.

Even when some of the family members of the victims and village elders came to Kabul to the presidential palace to speak with President Karzai [on Friday, March 16], few started by announcing their names but instead launched into accounts of what happened that night. And even they were at a loss to name every single victim at the time.


Also there is no real “digital footprint” in villages where electricity and running water are luxuries, making communication extremely difficult.

Ages were often hard to ascertain, because, like many places in the world with poverty and high illiteracy rates, people do not know their birth dates.


Life is not cheap. It never was and never will be — no matter where you live. I have witnessed the suffering of a mother in Oakland, California, whose child was killed by a bullet and the grieving of a mother in Sukur, Pakistan, whose child was swept away by a flood. There is no difference in the amount of pain they endure, or the tears they shed.

So in the interest of innocent victims everywhere, we as journalists need to work harder to find out who they were, to paint a picture of the lives they had and the people who grieve for them.

May they all rest in peace — and be counted.

To its great credit, in late March the Australian public television network SBS added to those valuable print reports (and to the invaluable early photographs and video footage obtained by Afghan reporters) some extremely helpful, difficult-to-obtain television footage – of interviews with some of the surviving relatives of those killed that night, and of one of the homes in one of the villages where people were killed – taken during a trip to Panjwai by Australian SBS-TV reporter Yalda Hakim and cameraman Ryan Sheridan for this March 27, 2012 SBS Dateline program (the main source of the multiple screen-captured images in this post):

Screen capture of 3/27/2012 SBS-TV broadcast of "Anatomy of a Massacre" with Panjwai graves in the background

Because of its sensationalism, among other, higher motives we can hope, many non-Afghan media outlets paired with local Afghan reporters to have at least one go at this story – a real “Saturday Night Massacre” committed by someone(s) serving in the Executive Branch of our government. The resulting coverage, as hasty and heavily Pentagon-tilted as it is, remains a valuable record, even though it primarily consists – once the many press-release pronouncements from nominally-responsible authorities are removed – of a muddled and unnecessarily confusing scattershot of information, which has been given little follow-up. To date, no non-Afghan account that I’ve seen has tried to systematically list, by location, name, relationship, and age, the 4-5 6 (or more) households primarily affected by the killer(s) that night, or to put faces to the foreign names for English-speaking audiences.

Nevertheless – in spite of the attempt by at least one American media outlet [print page “no longer available” 10/8; replacement link] to place blame for the confused reporting on the traumatized and grieving victims themselves, and the efforts of many in the media to imply that the real story is now shrouded in mystery or unobtainable, in the face of heavy Pentagon/NATO/ISAF pressure to toe the U.S. military’s “lone gunman” line on the attacks – when the scattered (and, obviously, translated, however imperfectly) snippets in media reports quoting Afghan witnesses and survivors are organized and examined, the accounts by the Afghan villagers seem to be remarkably consistent and coherent.

Notably, those accounts by Afghan villagers – in non-Afghan media outlets, though apparently mostly obtained by local, on-the-ground Afghan reporters – who witnessed the attacks, and/or their aftermath, provide very little corroboration from named Afghans describing a lone U.S. soldier as responsible. This is true even though more than one named survivor (three of them children) describes being shot at by a single (unidentified American, or “NATO,” in one case) soldier – because that single soldier is also generally described by the same survivor, or by their family, as being accompanied by other soldiers, often carrying lights, elsewhere in the home, or in the yard between the house itself and the courtyard wall that fronts the public street – a common layout in these small settlements, as seen in this screen capture from the SBS-TV Dateline footage of Alkozai filmed on March 23, 2012:

Image of Alkozai village in Panjwai district, Kandahar, Afghanistan, from March 23, 2012 footage by SBS-TV of Australia

The closest thing to named sources for the lone gunman theory, among eyewitnesses, that I’ve seen to date are the off-camera accounts of two children – family or families unnamed, but likely [or maybe not, per new information given to CNN by Yalda Hakim in an April 11 interview, as quoted in Comment 2 below] possibly from the Mohammad Naim home in Alkozai (whose wounded boy may be is known as Sediqullah, and whose wounded girl’s name I don’t know is Parmina or Parween; see Comment 13 below) – who reportedly told Yalda Hakim of the Australian TV network SBS the following, when Hakim visited the Panjwai district in late March (quoting from Hakim’s remarks in a brief interview that CNN did with Hakim after her Panjwai visit):

Two of the children I spoke to told me that they only saw one American in their house. The [third] 8-year-old girl [Noorbinak, family name not mentioned] I spoke to [at the hospital, where she’s being treated for a leg wound] said she saw several Americans in her house.” – SBS-TV reporter Yalda Hakim, March 29, 2012

[April 27 Update: I’ve now discovered a valuable video clip aired by CNN International on March 18th or 19th, that includes brief eyewitness accounts by two unidentified boys reporting that they saw a single soldier  – and who’re this time recorded on camera (apparently on or soon after March 11), as shown by the following screen capture of CNN’s NEWS STREAM broadcast. Their words, as translated and transcribed by CNN, are posted below the screen capture. (((Later information obtained from family members – see my follow-up July 7th post – revealed that one man with the boys is a nephew of Mohammad Dawood – Toor Jan, called “Ali Ahmad” by CNN – and another a brother of Dawood – Abdul Woddod – making it almost certain that the two young boys are two sons of Mohammad Dawood, who lived about 1/2 kilometer northeast of Balandi/Najiban.))) The village in which the two boys evidently witnessed the March 11 attack is not specified, but they seem to be from (near) Balandi/Najiban, which is where at least the beginning (and perhaps all) of that CNN Panjwai footage was filmed (as introduced by CNN International Correspondent Sara Sidner, and as indicated by the account of the only named, adult witness quoted on camera – see the related update in the Balandi/Najiban section below about this previously-unmentioned witness). Thus, I’m deducing that these boys are sons of Mohammad Dawood of from near Balandi/Najiban, who was murdered that night, because they are filmed standing next to the man (Ali Ahmad) who identifies Mohammad Dawood as his uncle, and because the design of the tunic or top worn by the older boy in this CNN screen capture closely matches the tunic worn by a Dawood child in the SBS-TV screen capture I included in the Balandi/Najiban section below. (Alternatively, one boy could be a Dawood son, and the other, older, boy perhaps a son of Ali Ahmad from the same Dawood home.) However, the older boy seen here (with the matching tunic) does not seem to be visible in the SBS-TV video footage of the Dawood children taken in Kandahar city in late March After further review (May 24), I crossed off that statement because I now believe that the older boy is briefly visible in the March 27 DatelineSBS footage of the Dawood children – in the right rear at about 15:51; thus, if not Ali Ahmad’s son, he may well be the seventh (and oldest?) Dawood child – if the Dawood family does indeed have 7 children instead of the 6 usually cited. (At one point in the DatelineSBS footage of the Dawood family, there do seem to be seven children present around Dawood’s widow Massouma/”Aminea.”) Also, I believe, but can’t be sure, that the younger boy in this CNN screen capture is the Dawood boy closest to the camera in the SBS screen capture included in the Balandi/Najiban section below. Assuming that these boys are two of the Dawood children, or at least both members of the extended Dawood family, the CNN footage seems to reveal an obvious conflict about the number of attackers in Balandi/Najiban the Dawood home (1/2 KM away from Balandi/Najiban) between eyewitnesses in the same family and home (which CNN didn’t recognize, or didn’t point out) – with Dawood’s widow and Dawood’s adult nephew (Ali Ahmad/Toor Jan) reporting multiple soldiers (at least in the yard), and two of the Dawood family’s children reporting one soldier (at least in the home). (Dawood’s widow seems to have made it clear to Yalda Hakim of SBS that Mohammad Dawood was killed outside the home, in their exterior courtyard, although she said that at least one soldier also entered the home itself.  See the Balandi/Najiban/Dawood section below, and Comment 2.)  Because Yalda Hakim visited Dawood’s relocated widow and children in Kandahar city before her March 27th SBS broadcast, one of these two eyewitness boys may well be the third, off-camera male child she mentions above and in Comment 2 below as reporting a single shooter. If so, Hakim too (despite almost certainly understanding the relationship between the Dawood family members involved) didn’t point out in two of her subsequent interviews with CNN that the off-camera account to her by one of these boys was from a child of the same family in from near Balandi/Najiban whose key adult eyewitness (Mohammad Dawood’s widow) graphically described to Hakim and others a group of soldiers in her yard (and searching her home, including her “bathroom”) when her husband was killed.]

Screen capture of two Panjwai boys who witnessed the March 11 attacks, as aired by CNN International on March 19, 2012

Mohammad Dawood sons Hekmatullah 'Khan' Gul, right, and Nasibullah, left, who watched or heard their father being murdered at their home - 0.75 KM south of Camp Belamby, and about 0.50 KM east of the Mohammad Wazir home - during the Panjwai Massacre, and who say they saw or heard one soldier enter their room that night from - per Hekmatullah in October, 2012 - the 'bright as noon' courtyard outside, as recorded (without identification) in a CNN International broadcast aired March 19, 2012

Most of the villagers [interviewed in, apparently, “Najabyan” alone, including some residents of the nearby Dawood home located across a vineyard from the village] say they do not believe the U.S. version. But when it comes to actual eyewitnesses, their stories conflict. One of the young witnesses said [among other things; see the Balandi/Najiban section below],He was an American.” “It was just one person,” the [younger] boy next to him chimes in. But some adults in the village tell us they have evidence more than one soldier was involved, but none of them have said more than one soldier was [firing] a weapon. – CNN International NEWS STREAM transcript, March 19, 2012

Volunteers at Wikipedia have added significantly to the value of the spotty, isolated reports of the individual media outlets – by obviously working hard, early on, to gather in one place the links to those various reports, and by trying to construct a coherent narrative of the March 11th attacks from them. And Marcy Wheeler did some important preliminary analysis at her blog of the reporting about the victims (which led her to ask whether different numbers of troops were involved in the northern village shootings as compared to the southern village shootings, and which highlighted, among other things, how little care the “professional” reporters and editors took to obtain the basic “who, what, when, where, why, and how” of the attacks).

This post builds on that earlier work to connect some faces to the names, and to collect, organize and highlight the solid on-the-ground reporting about eyewitness accounts (and associated early photographs of locations and victims) provided by Afghan locals working for the Associated Press and other media outlets – accounts and photos that I’ve used to add some educated guesswork of my own about victim identities to attempt to fill in some of the reporting gaps. Corrections and additions to what follows are welcome; all emphasis in quoted excerpts is added.

Access to the shooting sites and to the hospitalized survivors is evidently limited and difficult (thanks to both the Taliban – which one unnamed resident, apparently from the southernmost village, early on told BBC News hadn’t been seen in the area before the killings for five months – and to the negative-publicity-paranoid, secrecy-obsessed American government), so, as with much of what’s been done in our names in Afghanistan by our Armed Forces over the last decade, a month after the cold-blooded war-crime killings occurred, we still have few firm details and conflicting accounts about what exactly happened that night. Yet, on the one-month anniversary of the attacks, the American media’s attention – guided by the Pentagon’s energetic, if undocumented, claims abuut a lone U.S. gunman – is quickly turning elsewhere.

One of the most glaring examples of unexplained, confusing discrepancies in the reporting from Panjwai – not addressed by any media account that I’ve seen [until the update in Comment 4 below] – is that the southernmost village where killings took place (of the two-three [or more] villages located near the Camp Belamby base that were attacked that night) is being simultaneously identified (by different reporters) as both “Najiban” and “Balandi” (or by similar variants, like Najeeban and Belandi-Pul). Three separate map graphics created by different media outlets to show the location of the settlements in Panjwai district use the name “Najiban,” while some of the best early on-the-ground reporting uses “Balandi” to identify the same village.

Here’s the March 12 BBC version of the location of the Panjwai villages involved (superimposed on a Google Earth image of the terrain) – a map which appears to reverse the position of two settlements (placing “Najeeban” to the north and Alkozai to the south of the military base Camp Belamby, rather than the other way around as shown in SBS-TV’s March 27 Dateline graphic further below):

Inaccurate March 12, 2012 BBC map of Panjwai district villages, Kandahar province, Afghanistan (the village locations are reversed and the massacre area is placed more than five miles EAST of its actual location)

[A later BBC report – from March 17th – includes the same map, and explains the reason for the inclusion of the location “Ibrahim Khan” this way: “The soldier, who was later named as Staff Sgt Robert Bales, is said to have broken into three homes in three different locations in Panjwai district – the villages of Alkozai and Najeeban and another settlement known locally as “Ibrahim Khan Houses.” I’ve so far found no other details about that settlement – neither the names of the victims who were wounded (or killed) there, or exactly where it is in relation to Camp Belamby —> which remained the case until the Ibrahim Khan Houses neighborhood of Alkozai was later mapped by Afghan reporter Mamoon Durrani based on his March 11 visit, and described by its former resident Rafiullah in late 2012 — see my July 7, 2012 post and its 2013 updates, as well as my June 5, 2013 post and maps for more).]

The following, apparently accurate, graphic was produced by the Australian TV network SBS for its Dateline program on March 27, after its reporter had returned from visiting Alkozai and Camp Belamby [note that unlike a graphic published by on March 22, which extrapolated from a map of 3 Alkozai homes drawn for their reporter(s) by one of the eyewitness survivors of the attack in Alkozai, SBS here places one village (Alkozai) north of the military base and one village (Najiban/Balandi) south of the base – rather than placing both villages south of the camp, as GlobalPost’s graphic seems to do]:

SBS-TV map image of the two Panjwai district villages in Afghanistan attacked on March 11, 2012

With that as introduction, I want to highlight what seems to have been the beginning – the motivating event – for the overnight massacre of March 11th, courtesy of a very important Associated Press report by Mirwais Khan (who’s the source of other valuable on-the-ground Panjwai reporting for the AP), published Wednesday, March 21st:

[…] Villagers said the earlier [roadside] bombing occurred in Mokhoyan, a village about 500 yards (meters) east of the [Camp Belamby] base.


One Mokhoyan resident, Ahmad Shah Khan, told The Associated Press that after the bombing, U.S. soldiers and their Afghan army counterparts arrived in his village and made many of the male villagers stand against a wall.

“It looked like they were going to shoot us, and I was very afraid,” Khan said. “Then a NATO soldier said through his translator that even our children will pay for this. Now they have done it and taken their revenge.”

Neighbors of Khan gave similar accounts to the AP… […]


On March 13, Afghan soldier Abdul Salam showed an AP reporter the site of a blast that made a large crater in the road in Panjwai district of Kandahar province, where the shootings occurred. The soldier said the explosion occurred March 8. Salam said he helped gather men in the village, and that troops spoke to them, but he was not close enough to hear what they said.


“The Americans told the villagers, ‘A bomb exploded on our vehicle. … We will get revenge for this incident by killing at least 20 of your people,'” [Panjwai district tribal elder Ghulam] Rasool said. “These are the reasons why we say they took their revenge by killing women and children in the villages.”


[Mokhoyan resident Naek] Mohammad said a U.S. soldier, speaking through a translator, then said: “I know you are all involved and you support the insurgents. So now, you will pay for it — you and your children will pay for this.'”

Similar information was conveyed in person (about two weeks after March 11th) to Australian-TV SBS Dateline reporter Yalda Hakim by the Afghan National Army General appointed as chief investigator of the Panjwai massacre by Afghan President Hamid Karzai:

GENERAL [Sher Mohammad] KARIMI: “Three days, four days – that’s what they said – before this incident, one of the US vehicles was hit by [a] mine, in a village [“called Mokhoyan,” Karimi says at this point per the video footage] in that vicinity, that area. One of the American soldiers lost his leg. He was amputated. This guy happens to be a very close friend to this individual, Robert Bales – close friend to this guy. And he had called the people – he had gone to the village – and told the people that he will revenge his friend, he will shoot everybody and gain revenge. That’s another issue that the people claim.”

[I learned April 21 – thanks to a translation in this “Exclusive” post – that the Spanish news agency reported similar information on March 13, quoting one of the same named sources cited a week later in the AP article (a man who had apparently spoken at a March 12 news conference held by eyewitnesses and other villagers while Afghan police and military – including two of President Karzai’s brothers – were on-scene investigating): «Un artefacto estalló al paso de un vehículo en la zona de Zangabad, del distrito de Panjwai hace tres días», explicó este lunes uno de los líderes tribales, Haji Muhammad Shah Khan, en declaraciones citadas por AIP. «Más tarde, los soldados de EE.UU. reunieron a varias personas en la zona y les acusaron de haber puesto el artefacto. Dijeron que se vengarían y atacarían a las mujeres y niños de la zona», añadió. (Haji Muhammad Hassan, who apparently witnessed the attacks, is also quoted in the 3/13 report, as is “26-year-old” Mohammad Zahir – mentioned below – the man who survived by going into the animal corral of his home.)]

Then, after midnight on the night of March 10-11, two nights after the alleged March 8th roadside bombing of an ISAF/NATO/American military vehicle, three different Afghanistan National Army soldiers on guard duty at the Camp Belamby base – located just west of where the Mokhoyan roadside bomb detonated – witnessed a single American soldier coming and going from the base, on foot, evidently during three consecutive shifts of guard duty by the Afghans.

As reported by Robert Burns of the Associated Press on Friday, March 23rd:

Members of the Afghan delegation investigating the killings said one Afghan guard [named Naimatullah, according to Yalda Hakim’s reporting] working from midnight to 2 a.m. on March 11 saw a U.S. soldier return to the base around 1:30 a.m. Another Afghan soldier who replaced the first and worked until 4 a.m. said he saw a U.S. soldier leave the base at 2:30 a.m. [apparently heading south, toward Balandi/Najiban, according to Hakim’s report]. It is unknown whether the two Afghan guards saw the same U.S. soldier.

And, as reported by Yalda Hakim on March 27th after also speaking to a third Afghanistan National Army soldier on guard duty that night (all three of the Afghan Army guards were filmed by SBS-TV cameraman Ryan Sheridan for the important 3/27 Dateline report), who likewise saw and quickly reported to his superiors an (unidentified) U.S. soldier approaching the base that night (a time is not given, but presumably sometime between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. unless this soldier was on the same 2-4 a.m. shift as the second soldier quoted):

SOLDIER (Translation): I notified the foreign forces that someone is coming. They told us not to shoot because it’s one of theirs. When we went out [according to the translation used for the subtitles of the filmed footage, this guard said he did not return “outside” after alerting the “foreign forces” inside the camp about the approaching soldier] the foreign forces searched him [the arriving soldier], took his clothes, and brought him into the camp in his underwear.

The earlier March 17th BBC account (which is otherwise mostly quite vague and imprecise) put it this way [Note: The BBC source(s) may be the reporting of Mamoon Durrani, who gave me a similar account, with some differences (plus the important additional detail that there are two Camp Belamby entrances/exits – one facing north, and one facing south), for my subsequent July 7th post (see the closing paragraphs of the text area, and Comment 5 there)]:

An Afghan guard at the Nato base told the BBC that Sgt Bales left the base twice. He returned at 00:30 local time (20:00 GMT) after the first trip out and was out between 02:00 and 04:00 for the second trip.


The Afghan guard at the base told a BBC reporter that when the soldier returned to the base after the first trip out, he greeted them in rudimentary Pashto. [The guard named Naimatullah who Yalda Hakim interviewed on camera about witnessing an unidentified soldier returning to the base the first time (at 1:30 a.m. local time, not 00:30 a.m., according to Hakim), said that the returning soldier said something to him on his way into the camp that Naimatullah didn’t understand because it was in the U.S. soldier’s “own language.”]

Despite these and related, less-detailed reports (which omit basic facts like whether there’s more than one entrance/exit to Camp Belamby), it’s still unclear which settlement was attacked first that night (never mind whether we can even be sure of which village is one-half mile to the north, and which 1.5 miles to the south of Camp Belamby, or of what the real name(s) of those villages are…).

But Yalda Hakim’s 3/27 SBS report, apparently drawn from the eyewitness accounts (given to her in person the week before) of three Afghanistan National Army soldiers who saw, in turn, an American soldier arriving, an American soldier departing an hour later, and then an American soldier arriving again 1.5-3.5 hours after that, would seem to lend credence to Alkozai, about half a mile to the north of Camp Belamby, being the first targeted that night (which is how Hakim narrates the sequence of events in her footage).

An early March 12 Associated Press report [link broken; alternative link] quotes the Afghan Defense Ministry as saying that the first village targeted was Balandi/Najiban (1-2 miles to the south of Camp Belamby) – except that the 3 a.m. timing evidently reported by the villagers, and cited in the story, seems to bely that sequence of events (due to the since-revealed accounts and schedules of the Camp Belamby Afghan Army guards), and would instead closely align with Balandi/Najiban being the second village targeted that night, in line with Hakim’s 3/27 report:

The Afghan Defense Ministry said the gunman left the base in Panjwai district and walked about one mile (1,800 meters) to Balandi village. Villagers described how they cowered in fear around 3 a.m. [the timing should have been before 1:30 a.m., if Balandi was the first village targeted and Bales was the lone assailant] as gunshots rang out and the soldier roamed from house to house, firing on those inside. They said he entered three homes in all and set fire to some of the bodies [in the home of Mohammad Wazir] after he killed them.

Eleven of the 12 civilians killed in [or near] Balandi were from the same family [that of Mohammad Wazir, who was away overnight with his four-year-old son Habib Shah, visiting relatives some hours away in Spin Boldak]. The remaining victim was a neighbor [Mohammad Dawood, from outside the village, father of 6 – or 7, per the GlobalPost (whose reporter(s), like Yalda Hakim who cites 6 children, spoke to Dawood’s widow and brother) – young children].

From Balandi, the gunman walked roughly one mile [more like 1.5 miles, I think, passing Camp Belamby on the way] to the village of Alkozai [is AP‘s source for this still the Afghan Defense Ministry?], which was only about 500 meters from [north of] the American military base. There the gunman killed four people in one house [the four acknowledged Alkozai deaths in fact occurred in three different houses; see Comment 13 below] and then moved to [Mohammad] Zahir’s [who’s possibly the farmer – or, per Comment 4 below, more likely the brother of – “Habibullah” in the story village unknown, per Comment 13 below] house, where he shot his [Zahir’s] father in the leg.

Setting aside the question of which village settlement was attacked first, early accounts reported that 16 of the dead from both/some/all villages were quickly transported to the Camp Belamby base itself [or at least to its gates], no doubt facilitating the detailing of the 17 premeditated murder counts with which Bales was charged on March 23rd – in accordance with the UCMJ and its court-martial jury-of-peers system of due process, of course; somehow no MCAct-concocted, defense-handicapping, jury-trial-protection-spurning Military Commission seems to be necessary when American persons are alleged to have committed war crime atrocities on an active foreign battlefield.

This March 11th account is from the New York Times:

Published: March 11, 2012

In Panjwai, a reporter for The New York Times [evidently Taimoor Shah] who inspected bodies that had been taken to the nearby American military base [Camp Belamby] counted 16 dead, including five children with single gunshot wounds to the head, and saw burns on some of the children’s legs and heads. “All the family members were killed, the dead put in a room, and blankets were put over the corpses and they were burned,” said Anar Gula, an elderly neighbor who rushed to the [Mohammad Wazir] house [in the southernmost village of Balandi/Najiban] after the soldier had left. “We put out the fire.”

The villagers also brought some of the burned blankets on motorbikes to display at the base, Camp Belambay, in Kandahar, and show that the bodies had been set alight. Soon, more than 300 people had gathered outside to protest.

At least five Afghans were wounded in the attacks, officials said, some of them seriously, indicating the death toll could rise. NATO said several casualties were being treated at a military hospital [on the Kandahar Airfield base].

Mohammad Wazir [who’s also called whose 60-year-old father – I learned late April 14 from this lengthy, valuable post by Gary Moore [a post that, by May 22, seems to have been removed from Moore’s site, without explanation], as noted in Comment 4 below – uncle (see Comment 19) apparently also survived (by being away from home), and, if so, is apparently is the man (and grandfather?) known as “Samad Khan” and “Haji Samad” and “Abdul Samad” in some early reporting], of the Panjwai district village of Balandi/Najiban:

Image of Mohammad Wazir of Balandi/Najiban, Panjwai district, Afghanistan, who lost 11 family members on 3/11/2012, speaking with Yalda Hakim of SBS-TV in late March, 2012

Mohammad Wazir of Balandi/Najiban village in Panjwai district, Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan, speaking with Yalda Hakim of SBS-TV, Australia, at the Kandahar Airfield ISAF military hospital in Afghanistan in late March, 2012. All 11 of Mohammad Wazir's relatives at his home in Balandi were killed on the night of March 11, 2012 while he was away overnight (with his only remaining child). Here he's speaking of his 60-year-old mother.

Judging by the evident smoke damage, this March 11 or March 12 photograph is probably the Mohammad Wazir home in Balandi/Najiban (the southernmost village), where 11 of Mr. Wazir’s family members – his mother, wife, 6 of his 7 children, his brother and the brother’s new bride, and a nephew – were shot and killed and then carried into the kitchen and set alight [all except Wazir’s mother, whose body was found lying near the door of the home’s main gate, as noted in Comment 17 below, and in my July 7th post]:

Apparently a March 11, 2012 photograph of the Mohammad Wazir home in Balandi/Najiban village, Panjwai district, Afghanistan

Appears to be a photograph of the Mohammad Wazir home in Balandi/Najiban, Panjwai district, where 11 family members were killed and 10 set afire on March 11, 2012. Photo Credit: KeystoneUSA-ZUMA / Rex Features

This March 11 photograph is of the interior of the room in the Mohammad Wazir home where the burning bodies were found by neighbors:

Appears to be a March 11, 2012 photograph of the interior of the Mohammad Wazir home in Balandi/Najiban, Panjwai district, Afghanistan where 10 of 11 murdered family members were burned

A March 11, 2012 photograph of the room in the Mohammad Wazir home in Balandi/Najiban where 10 of 11 murdered family members were carried by their attacker(s) to be burned on March 11, 2012. Photo Credit: Ahmad Nadeem/Reuters (The original caption was: Scene of the crime: Afghan men investigate at the site of a shooting incident in Kandahar province.)

[Most of] the seven or more wounded at Alkozai (apparently no one at Balandi/Najiban was wounded) were, at least initially, transported to and treated at the military hospital located on the major southern Afghanistan military base known as Kandahar Airfield, which gave the ISAF/NATO/Americans the ability to block access to the survivors when local Afghan journalists tried to speak to them (and, according to Yalda Hakim, also to block the local Afghan investigators to some extent). (“The wounded survivors, who saw everything of the massacre, are crucial to the story,” said one of the frustrated [Afghan] reporters. “But the Americans didn’t allow us to talk to them” – reported at the end of this March 23rd account, which identifies the hospital in question.) [At least one Afghan reporter, however, reportedly filmed the wounded at the hospital on March 12 – see my July 7th follow-up post.]

Yalda Hakim herself was initially prevented by the American military from speaking with survivors at the Kandahar Airfield base hospital, until her news director in Sydney contacted Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who told the Americans to grant Hakim access (Hakim had interviewed Karzai for SBS 4-5 weeks earlier). Karzai’s intervention allowed Hakim to film an interview at the hospital, a few days before March 27, with two wounded children – identified only as the boy Sediqullah, and 8-year-old girl Noorbinak (whose father was shot in the foot and chest/neck and killed), but who are, respectively, I’m deducing (based in part on Qais Azimy’s list of wounded, which includes “Mohamed Sediq, son of Mohamed Naim”), the wounded son of Mohammad Naim of Alkozai (who was also wounded), and one of the 3-4 children wounded in the household of Sayed Jan (Saaed Jaan) of Alkozai, where, it seems, the father of a Jan Agha (Jan Agha might be Noorbinak’s cousin?) was killed with three others (who were, apparently, Jan Agha’s mother, brother and sister). Hakim also spoke with several men at the hospital, including Mohammad Wazir of Balandi/Najiban, the late Mohammad Dawood’s brother Baran Akhon of Kandahar city (also called “Mullah Barraan” in some reports), and – I believe – [a cousin of] Sayed (or Saeed) Jan (or Jaan) of Alkozai (who, like Wazir, was away overnight when the killing of his family members occurred).



(About 1/2 mile north of Camp Belamby; where 4 were killed and 7 or more wounded)  _________________________________________________________________

Based on the photo caption in this early, March 12 BBC account, I’d thought the following photo might be a photograph of Sayed (or Saeed) Jan (or Jaan), Age 50, who lost his wife, his brother, his cousin or brother-in-law (accounts vary) 35-year-old nephew, and 3-year-old granddaughter or 3-year-old nephew (accounts vary) niece in Alkozai [reportedly two Jan nephews (or one nephew and one niece, aka Noorbinak??) – 7-year-old Rafiullah and 8-year-old Shokriya – were wounded, as was a 6-year-old niece, Zardana, who was shot in the head]. But now – per Comment 4 below, and the April 22nd update posted toward the end of the Balandi/Najiban section below – information I’ve learned since the post was published makes it seem more likely almost certain that this is instead the 60-year-old father uncle (see Comment 19 below) of Mohammad Wazir, Abdul Samad of Balandi/Najiban (see the similar, but much clearer photograph of Abdul Samad – who lost eleven family members – in the next section):

A photograph of an adult male who lost family members in the March 11, 2012 Panjwai Massacre speaking by phone with President Karzai

March, 2012 photograph of a man who lost family members in the March 11, 2012 Panjwai district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan killings. Photo Credit: BBC (The original caption was: Man who lost several family members telephones appeal to President Karzai)

As can be seen, the reporting about victims that remains the most confused to date is that describing the four individuals killed and 3-4 wounded in (or from) the Sayed Jan household in Alkozai. There seem to be two or more different accounts about the same victims, told from the perspectives of different relatives, possibly including the 8-year-old girl Noorbinak who Yalda Hakim interviewed at the hospital, but who SBS-TV didn’t associate with any village or family – aside from showing a close-up of a blood stain inside an Alkozai home, just after Noorbinak describes how her father died (at the beginning of the 3/27 SBS Dateline “Anatomy of a Massacre” program):

A quote by 8-year-old Noorbinak, over an image of the Panjwai district, Afghanistan, as she explained to SBS-TV report Yalda Hakim that she saw her father murdered in their home on March 11, 2012


MAN [Yalda Hakim’s translator] (Translation): You know where your father is?

CHILD [8-year-old Noorbinak] (Translation): He died.

REPORTER [Yalda Hakim]: How did he die?

CHILD (Translation): The Americans.

Image of 8-year-old girl Noorbinak of Panjwai district, Kandahar, Afghanistan, whose father was shot and killed in front of her on March 11, 2012

Screen-captured image of 8-year-old Noorbinak - family and village unidentified until July (her father's Nazar Mohammad of Alkozai) - speaking with SBS-TV reporter Yalda Hakim in late March, 2012, at the Kandahar Airfield ISAF military hospital where Noorbinak revealed the bullet wound in her leg. Noorbinak watched her father being shot and killed by American soldier(s) on March 11, 2012, as her father defended her mother in their home in Panjwai district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan.

As Noorbinak’s (presumed) relative or neighbor Sayed Jan (“Syed Jaan”) told the Wall Street Journal, for an important, carefully-reported story published March 22nd:

ASIA NEWS | Updated March 22, 2012, 11:05 p.m. ET

A version of this article appeared March 23, 2012, on page A7 in some U.S. editions of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Afghan Father Copes With Aftermath.



Mr. Jaan was away, on a trip to Kandahar city, when his wife, brother, brother-in-law and three-year-old nephew were killed. Two nephews, Rafiullah, 7, and Shokriya, 8 [possibly a niece, aka Noorbinak?? – who was shot in the leg and lost her father], were hit in the lower part of their bodies, but are expected to survive.

Mr. Jaan’s 6-year-old niece Zardana, shot in the head, was still lying unconscious in a Kandahar hospital earlier this week, and wasn’t expected to survive, he said.

U.S. defense officials on Thursday said the death toll in the massacre was 17, up from 16. They didn’t immediately explain the change.

Zardana had asked Mr. Jaan, 50, to bring back new clothes on a recent trip to the city, something he couldn’t afford. “Whenever I go to the hospital and see her, I remember that time and her request,” Mr. Jaan says. “I feel helpless and vulnerable, and just can’t hold back tears.”

[A cousin (named Fazal Mohammad) of] the same man (Sayed Jan) may be is [per subsequent reporting by Afghan journalist Mamoon Durrani] in the group screen-capture of survivors (sitting next to Noorbinak) being interviewed at the hospital by Yalda Hakim the same week the WSJ account was published:

A screen-captured group image of survivors of the March 11, 2012 Panjwai Massacre being interviewed by SBS-TV reporter Yalda Hakim, at a military base hospital in Afghanistan

Survivors of the Panjwai district shootings being interviewed by Australian SBS-TV reporter Yalda Hakim (in the green scarf) at the Kandahar Airfield ISAF military hospital in late March, 2012. Starting with Hakim, and going counterclockwise, they are the SBS-TV interpreter; 8-year-old Noorbinak (who was shot in the leg and whose father was killed in front of her); Fazal Mohammad (source: family through Mamoon Durrani), a cousin of Sayed Jan of Alkozai who lost 4 family members; Baran Akhon (the brother of the murdered Mohammad Dawood from near Najiban - Dawood's widow and 7 6 children are now living with Akhon); Agha Lala (40-50) of Najiban, who was killed in a car accident on June 30, 2012 (see end of 7/7 post); and, with his back to the camera, Mohammad Wazir (35) of Balandi/Najiban (11 members of Wazir's family were murdered on March 11, 2012).

Someone who I deduce [incorrectly? see Comment 16 below] to be a relative of Sayed Jan’s gave early accounts of the killings in the Sayed Jan home in Alkozai to Reuters and McClatchy (perhaps before Sayed Jan had returned from Kandahar city, where he’d spent the night?). That eyewitness is Jan Agha, Age 20, and according to some confused early reporting, Jan Agha watched his father be shot and killed at the window of their home in Alkozai that night, and then his mother and brother and sister were also killed. [A total of four dead have been reported in Alkozai (the northernmost village) as a whole.]

From one March 11th Reuters report:

By Ahmad Haroon

BELANDAI, Afghanistan | Sun Mar 11, 2012 2:22pm EDT

BELANDAI [though evidently reporting first about deaths that took place in the village of Alkozai], Afghanistan (Reuters) – Bursts of gunfire shook Jan Agha out of bed in his village in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. His father peeped nervously through a window curtain at the lane outside.

Suddenly, more shots rang out. His father was hit in the throat and the face. He died instantly.

Afghan officials say Western forces shot dead 16 civilians including nine children in southern Kandahar province on Sunday in a rampage that witnesses said was carried out by American soldiers who were laughing and appeared drunk.


Agha, 20, said American soldiers who had opened fire in the early hours entered the family home and waited in silence for what seemed an eternity. He lay on the floor, pretending to be dead.

“The Americans stayed in our house for a while. I was very scared,” he told Reuters.

“My mother was shot in her eye and her face. She was unrecognizable. My brother was shot in the head and chest and my sister was killed, too.”

Agha’s account of multiple American soldiers shooting villagers could not be immediately verified.

From a second Reuters report co-bylined by the same reporter, that was published four hours after the first and doesn’t mention Jan Agha at all:

By Ahmad Nadem and Ahmad Haroon

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan | Sun Mar 11, 2012 6:19pm EDT


I saw that all 11 of my relatives were killed, including my children and grandchildren,” said a weeping Haji Samad [evidently Mohammad Wazir’s father uncle, of Balandi/Najiban], who said he had left his home a day earlier.

The walls of the house were blood-splattered.

“They (Americans) poured chemicals over their dead bodies and burned them,” Samad [Mohammad Wazir’s father uncle] told Reuters at the scene.

Neighbors said they had awoken to crackling gunfire from American soldiers, who they described as laughing and drunk.

“They were all drunk and shooting all over the place,” said [Balandi] neighbor Agha Lala [no relation to Jan Agha of Alkozai, according to the first Reuters account], who visited one of the homes [the Wazir home in Balandi] where killings took place.

“Their (the victims’) bodies were riddled with bullets.”

Jan Agha is also quoted (this time, oddly, without any reference to his own losses) in a confused McClatchy report from March 11th, updated March 12th, which evidently understood the Jan Agha-described killings in Alkozai to the north to be killings that occurred to the south in “Gerambai”/Balandi/Najiban – or else mistakenly thought  (perhaps based on the erroneous BBC map) that “Gerambai”/Belandi-Pul/Balandi/Najiban was the northern village, not the southern village, as other media reports clearly describe it to be…:

By Jon Stephenson and Ali Safi | McClatchy Newspapers

last updated: March 12, 2012 11:13:05 AM


Jan Agha, who lives near the site of the incident, told McClatchy the U.S. soldier attacked two houses in the village of Gerambai [meaning Najiban/Balandi to the south, apparently] as well as two houses in Belandi-Pul [meaning Alkozai, evidently?], four kilometers away, including [at Alkozai/”Belandi-Pul”] the home of his brother-in-law, Mohammad Naim. He confirmed the government account of dead and injured.

“In Belandi [that is, necessarily, to the north in Alkozai], four civilians were martyred (killed), and five wounded,” said Agha. He said his brother-in-law, Naim, and Naim’s son and daughter were among the wounded in Belandi [that is, in Alkozai to the north].

“In the house next to his [it’s unclear who “his” is a reference to here, but presumably Jan Agha means next to Mohammad Naim’s house], Sayed Jan’s house, four people were killed and two [or three] were wounded,” he added [without mentioning to McClatchy that those four killed were his close relatives too??].

Twelve people were killed [to the south] in Gerambai [Najiban/Balandi], Agha said – 11 in a house belonging to a farmer named Haji Wazir, who was away at the time.

“Their rooms were set on fire after they were killed,” Agha said. “I saw the house that was burnt,” he added. “This wasn’t the work of just one person.”

[Note, too, that this AP article cites “community elder Jan Agha” as a source for the amount of money “President Obama” paid the families of the victims. Perhaps (as later occurred to me, leading me to add this sentence in late May) Reuters and McClatchy are referring to two different Jan Aghas, and only “community elder” Jan Agha is a brother-in-law of Mohammad Naim? (See Comment 13 below.)]

In fact, according to a map later drawn for by one of the Alkozai eyewitnesses (Habibullah), it appears that at least three neighboring homes in that northernmost village were entered that night – the Sayed Jan (or Saeed Jaan) home, the home of Mohammad Naim, and which is apparently also that of 28-year-old farmer Habibullah (see Comment 13), and the home of Nazar Mohammad (as revealed by new reporting on May 16). [Habibullah might be probably isn’t (see Comment 13) the brother – see Comment 4 below – of 26-year-old “Mohammad Zahir” (Zahir’s village isn’t named) referenced in this March 12th AP report – whose father was wounded.] From the March 23rd GlobalPost report [print page “no longer available” 10/8; replacement link] quoting Alkozai resident Habibullah:

By Bette Dam March 23, 2012 06:29 Updated March 29, 2012 08:10


Habibullah, a 28-year-old farmer who saw parts of the massacre unfold, was one of those who met Karzai [on Friday, March 16th]. He told GlobalPost he saw several soldiers in his compound when his father was shot [and wounded]. But he also admits he can’t remember everything that happened.

“My mind is too confused,” he said.

Habibullah tried his best to describe the shooting for GlobalPost. He drew a map of the three houses in his village, Alkozai, where four people were killed. His house was in the middle. He said his wife woke him up early in the morning — he can’t recall the exact time — shouting that American soldiers were at the house next door. Habibullah told her not to worry.

“This is a night raid,” he remembered telling her.


But a few moments later residents from neighboring houses began fleeing to Habibullah’s, telling everyone to hide. The attacker — or attackers — soon followed, he said.

“I didn’t hear a lot of shooting and I didn’t hear helicopters,” Habibullah recalled. But he did see “two or three Americans” enter his compound, “using lights and firing at my father, who was wounded.”

“Next” to the Sayed Jan home (or close by, on the other side of the Habibullah home) in Alkozai is the home of Mohammad Naim (and, evidently, his son Habibullah), who is the brother-in-law of Jan Agha (Jan Agha presumably was living in the Sayed Jan home, though there’s no real evidence of that). Three occupants were wounded in the Naim home – Mohammad himself, his son, and his daughter – as were neighbors who fled there, one of whom was killed: see Comment 13. Assuming We now know that the wounded boy filmed at the hospital is Mohammad Naim’s son; “Sediqullah” was shot near the head:

Screen-captured image of Panjwai district boy named Sediqullah pointing to the bullet hole he received in the ear on March 11, 2012, in an interview with SBS-TV in late March, 2012

Young Panjwai boy Sediqullah - son of Mohammad Naim of Alkozai - pointing to the near-miss bullet wound in the ear he received in the Panjwai Massacre on March 11, 2012, during an interview - apparently at the Kandahar Airfield ISAF military hospital - with SBS-TV reporter Yalda Hakim in late March, 2012

More of a mystery, unfortunately, is which family the young girl Noorbinak [who’s apparently also known as “Robina,” per Article 32 testimony in November, 2012] belongs to. Because her father was killed, she evidently has to belong to either the Sayed Jan household family in Alkozai, or to the Mohammad Dawood home in near Balandi/Najiban. But there’s no indication from the hospital interview footage (where Baran Akhon – Dawood’s brother, who would thus be her uncle – is sitting across from Noorbinak) that she belongs to that Balandi/Najiban family of six children [by most accounts, and (by my count) all accounted for in Kandahar city with their mother in the SBS Dateline footage aired 3/27] or, by one account, 7 children (I believe 7 children are visible at times in the same DatelineSBS footage of the Dawoods). Notice, in the third screen capture of the SBS footage below, how Noorbinak places her hand near her neck to indicate where her father was fatally shot [after he was first shot in the foot; whereas Mohammad Dawood, based on the accounts of his widow and brother cited further below – and on an April 11 account by SBS-TV’s Yalda Hakim (see Comment 2) – was evidently fatally shot in the head]:

Screen-captured image of 8-year-old Noorbinak - from Panjwai district, Kandahar province, southeastern Afghanistan - describing what she witnessed the night of March 11, 2012, when her father was murdered in front of her, to Australian SBS-TV reporter Yalda Hakim

Screen-captured image of 8-year-old Noorbinak - from Panjwai district, Kandahar province, southeastern Afghanistan - describing what she witnessed the night of March 11, 2012, when her father was murdered in front of her, to Australian SBS-TV reporter Yalda Hakim

Screen-captured image of 8-year-old Noorbinak - from Panjwai district, Kandahar province, southeastern Afghanistan - describing what she witnessed the night of March 11, 2012, when her father was murdered in front of her, to Australian SBS-TV reporter Yalda Hakim

Screen-captured image of 8-year-old Noorbinak - from Panjwai district, Kandahar province, southeastern Afghanistan - describing what she witnessed the night of March 11, 2012, when her father was murdered in front of her, to Australian SBS-TV reporter Yalda Hakim

Yalda Hakim and her cameraman Ryan Sheridan visited at least one of the homes in Alkozai (without the survivors present) for her report – on March 23rd, according to this tweet – but apparently did not go south to Balandi/Najiban. At about the same time that Hakim was making her way through allegedly newly-mined roads and fields to visit Alkozai (while apparently being told by her Afghan Army/Police guides that all Alkozai residents had fled the settlement in fear for their lives), Mirwais Khan and Heidi Vogt of the Associated Press published a very informative, detailed follow-up account about some of the Alkozai survivors, on Saturday, March 24th:


HARMARA, Afghanistan —


Another man whose wife, cousin, brother and 3-year-old granddaughter were killed in the neighboring village of Alkozai said people there are too scared to sleep alone, so they cram as many people into one house as possible each night. Saeed Jan also complained that U.S. troops continue to patrol the area.

“There is still blood in our houses. It hasn’t been removed. And they are moving through our streets again. It’s like they are pushing us, just showing that they can,” Jan said.

He also says monetary payouts will not suffice.

“Even millions of dollars would not be enough for my brother. First they should give us justice and punish all the people who did this,” [Baran] Akhon said [speaking of his brother Mohammad Dawood, father of 6-7 young children, who was killed in near Balandi/Najiban].

There’s another eyewitness account – which, if his age is inaccurately reported, might be another son recounting the killing of the father of (20-year-old) Jan Agha (or of 8-year-old Noorbinak?) in Alkozai, or (though much less likely) perhaps the killing of Mohammad Dawood in near Balandi/Najiban – that I can’t place for certain in either village, or in any of the three homes evidently entered in Alkozai. That account is from this March 11th New York Times report:


Published: March 11, 2012


One of the survivors from the attacks, Abdul Hadi, 40, said he was at home when a soldier broke down the door.

“My father went out to find out what was happening, and he was killed,” he said. “I was trying to go out and find out about the shooting, but someone told me not to move, and I was covered by the women in my family in my room, so that is why I survived.”

Mr. Hadi said there was more than one soldier involved in the attacks, and at least five other villagers described seeing a number of soldiers, and also a helicopter and flares at the scene. But that claim was unconfirmed — other [unnamed…] Afghan residents described seeing only one gunman — and it was unclear whether extra troops had been sent out to the village after the attack to catch the gunman [they were preparing to search but had not yet left the base when Bales returned and was taken into custody, as subsequent information makes clear – pow wow].

[See Comments 12 and 13 below for valuable new details about the shootings and victims in Alkozai, which were reported by McClatchy in a May 16th article and accompanying graphic (link broken in their 9/24 website redesign; alternative link). Those details and more are expanded upon in my second, July 7th follow-up Panjwai post.]


BALANDI/Najiban [& DAWOOD Home (see Comment 19 below)]

(About 1.5 miles to the south of Camp Belamby; where 12 were killed and none wounded) _________________________________________________________________

There’s more precise detail from eyewitnesses to the killings and/or their aftermath in the southernmost Balandi/Najiban village [and the nearby Dawood home (see July 7th post)] – due in part to the dramatic nature of the Wazir family tragedy there, and possibly also because it may not have been clear at first that a second (and third?) village to the north was also targeted, so that reporting and photography early on focused mostly on the Balandi/Najiban survivors.

There are reports of direct attacks on two homes in [or near] Balandi/Najiban: The home of Mohammad Dawood [which I learned in late June is located about one-half kilometer east/northeast of Balandi/Najiban] and the home of Dawood’s neighbors Mohammad Wazir and Abdul Samad (Wazir’s father uncle) [which is located in Balandi/Najiban village proper].

A Balandi/Najiban neighbor of the two Wazir/Samad home attacked there, Agha Lala, was an eyewitness to the attackers outside those that dwelling – and, because Lala himself was not being directly attacked at the time, and evidently watched the attackers for some time (before being shot at himself and then hiding), Agha Lala is probably a particularly valuable and credible eyewitness as to the (multiple) number of attackers (or at least attack conspirators/helpers) in Balandi/Najiban that night. So far, however, I’ve seen only this one brief Reuters report, from March 11th, quoting Agha Lala by name about what he saw [similar comments by Agha Lala are also quoted in another (later) March 11 Reuters report]:

By Ahmad Haroon

BELANDAI, Afghanistan | Sun Mar 11, 2012 2:22pm EDT

Another witness, Agha Lala, who is in his 40s, said he was awoken by gunfire at about 2 a.m. [that timing, if accurate, doesn’t appear to match – for either village – if Bales was a lone assailant]

I watched them from a wall for a while. Then they opened fire on me. The bullets hit the wall. They were laughing. They did not seem normal. It was like they were drunk,” he said.

After rushing to his home and hiding all night, Lala, who is no relation to Jan Agha, went to check on the neighbors [at the Wazir and Dawood homes in/near Balandi/Najiban].

“It was a slaughter. The bullet-riddled bodies were all over the room and it seemed they were burned with curtains and blankets that were torched,” he said.

“Is this what the Americans call an assistance force? They are beasts and have no humanity. The Taliban are much better than them.”

Blood was splattered in one house in the village and there were bullet holes in the walls.

On March 23rd, Reuters also made available here a 2-minute clip (that I haven’t been able to view), with a brief transcript that indicates that it contains footage of a sentence or two spoken, in Pashto, by an “Agha Lala” – who may be the same man, and/or the “Kandahar provincial council member Agha Lalai” quoted in this article, or someone else with the same name – about bringing the Panjwai killer(s) to justice [(SOUNDBITE) (Pashto) KANDAHAR RESIDENT, AGHA LALA, SAYING: “We demand from the court in the United States to give the death penalty to the U.S soldier who massacred the civilians, because he deserves hanging, because he committed the biggest crime. We want a punishment based on Islamic sharia law.”].

[See the last photograph in my July 7 follow-up post, and Comment 4 there, for more about Agha Lala.]

[April 27 Update: As referenced near the beginning of the post – and thanks to a tweeted link to a Truthout reprinting of this April 23rd post by Ralph Lopez, which updated a longer, skeptical 4/23 overview of the conflicting Panjwai reporting, that provided a link to a March 21 post at by Jefferson Morley – I discovered an important March 19 CNN International video that was narrated by Sara Sidner for NEWS STREAM, which apparently includes another key eyewitness account from an adult male in Balandi/Najiban at the Dawood Home [see July 7 post], of whom I had not previously been aware (and who represents [pre-July 7 post] only the third second named adult eyewitness in Balandi/Najiban at the Dawood Home). That eyewitness – Ali Ahmad (see screen capture below) – is almost certainly describing Mohammad Dawood as his uncle, and CNN translated and transcribed Ali Ahmad’s account of the Dawood home attack (and the “next door” to the attack on the Mohammad Wazir/Abdul Samad home [which is actually about one-half kilometer away from the Dawood home]) as a “witness” account, as follows.]

SIDNER (voice-over): Graves in Majabianvaj (ph) Najiban, a place now haunted by the memory of a massacre. Ali Ahmed (ph) Ali Ahmad describes what he saw. “It was around 3:00 at night that they entered the room. They took my uncle out of the room and shot him after asking him, ‘Where is the Taliban?’ My uncle replied that he didn’t know.” Ahmed (ph) Ahmad said the worst happened next door. “Finally, they came to this room [in the Mohammad Wazir/Abdul Samad home] and martyred all the children in the room. There was even a 2-month-old [2-year-old?] baby,” he said.

Once the shooting stopped, the villagers said some of the dead were piled in a room and set on fire. At daybreak, in the back of trucks, evidence emerged of the burning of bodies and killing of babies.


“They went through a field of wheat and there was more than one set of footprints. The villagers have seen them and signs of knee prints as well.”

And here’s how Sidner and/or her editors put it in the CNN article describing the same video footage:

Ali Ahmad, one of the villagers, holds a blood-stained pillow in his home, then goes to his neighbor’s home and shows blood splatter on a wall as he describes what he remembers.

“It was around 3 at night that they entered the room. They took my uncle out of the room and shot him after asking him, ‘Where is the Taliban?’

“My uncle replied that he didn’t know,” Ahmad said.

Ahmad used “they” but did not say more than one soldier was in his home. [Adds CNN, inexplicably – confusing rather than clarifying their translation of Ahmad’s words, which seem to belie this statement. – pow wow]


Most of the villagers say they do not believe the U.S. version of events, but accounts from eyewitnesses conflict.

One of the young [Dawood?] boys who were there recounted it this way:

He said, “Hello, hello Taliban, Taliban. We told him there is no Taliban here, but he broke the cupboards.” He added, “He was an American.”

Another boy chimes in: “It was just one person.”

And although some adults in the village said they have evidence more than one soldier was involved, none has said that more than one soldier was firing a weapon.

They went through the field of wheat and there were the footprints of no less than 15 people. There were signs of knee prints as well.” Ahmad said.

Screen capture of adult male eyewitness Ali Ahmad, who saw his uncle murdered in Balandi/Najiban on March 11, 2012. From a CNN International broadcast aired March 19, 2012

Ali Ahmad (center), apparently an eyewitness to the murder of Mohammad Dawood in a home near Balandi/Najiban on March 11, 2012. Ahmad's a nephew of Mohammad Dawood, and, according to the CNN translation, Ahmad said that soldiers took Dawood out of the room that they had entered, and then shot Dawood, at about 3 a.m. on 3/11/2012 after asking Dawood: Where is the Taliban? From undated footage aired by CNN International on March 19, 2012. (I subsequently learned - see July 7 post - that Ali Ahmad is named Toor Jan, and that Toor Jan is in fact a nephew of Mohammad Dawood (and Baran Akhon). The man in white on the right in this screen capture is another brother of Mohammad Dawood named Abdul Woddod, per Baran Akhon.)

[The March 18/March 19 CNN International video includes footage of what seems to be the backyard of either the Wazir/Samad home in Balandi/Najiban or the Mohammad Dawood home. The villagers took the cameraman back there to point out something by the wall (apparently on the ground near an old oil drum and smaller red fuel container), but just as the camera appears to be focusing in on the area in question, CNN cuts away from that footage to something else.]

Here’s a screen capture from the March 27 SBS-TV Dateline report, showing several of Mohammad Dawood’s 6 (or 7) children (from near Balandi/Najiban) – at least six young children are visible around their mother, Mohammad Dawood’s widow Massouma, in the Dateline footage filmed [by Yalda Hakim at night] shortly before 3/27 – after their relocation to the simple (unelectrified) home in Kandahar city where Dawood’s brother Baran Akhon has taken in Dawood’s widow and children, including the 6-month-old in his mother’s arms who’s referenced in the screen capture of Baran Akhon further below:

A screen-captured image of 3 of the children of Mohammad Dawood of Balandi/Najiban, who was killed on March 11, 2012, from a broadcast by SBS-TV in late March, 2012

Three of the six (or seven) children of Mohammad Dawood from near Balandi/Najiban village, Panjwai district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan. Mohammad Dawood was attacked and murdered at his home on March 11, 2012 (by a group of American soldiers, according to his widow Massouma and nephew Ali Ahmad/Toor Jan). Dawood's brother Baran Akhon brought his brother's family to live with him in his modest home (unwired for electricity) in Kandahar city, Afghanistan, where Australian SBS-TV reporter Yalda Hakim personally filmed this scene with a hand-held camera (because her male cameraman Ryan Sheridan was not allowed into the home) in late March, 2012

Screen-captured SBS-TV image of Baran Akhon, the brother of Mohammad Dawood. Mohammad Dawood was murdered in Balandi/Najiban village, Panjwai district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, on the night of March 11, 2012

Baran Akhon ("Mullah Barraan"), the brother of the late Mohammad Dawood - who was murdered near Balandi/Najiban on March 11, 2012 in front of his wife and 6 children. Baran Akhon is describing to SBS-TV reporter Yalda Hakim at the Kandahar Airfield ISAF military hospital, late in March, 2012, what Dawood's widow and children have told him about what they witnessed the night that Mohammad Dawood was killed, after the six-month-old became frightened by the screaming

Mohammad Dawood’s widow and her young children [and per the 4/27 update, Dawood’s adult nephew Ali Ahmad/Toor Jan, as well] are some of the few, key eyewitnesses to the attack in Balandi/Najiban at the Dawood Home that night. given that [In the nearby village of Balandi/Najiban,] no one (save possibly one adult sister – see Comment 4 below) was spared in the neighboring home of Mohammad Wazir, where all 11 were reported killed. As Yalda Hakim – who was born in Afghanistan and speaks the languages – explained in a radio interview after her 3/27 Dateline report, it is rare for Afghan women and children to be put forward in public to the extent that she and her cameraman were granted access to Dawood’s widow and children [and to the two children (of the Naim and Jan families?) at the hospital, whose mothers – if not wounded or killed – are never on camera]. No doubt for similar reasons, Dawood’s brother Baran Akhon was reluctant at first to let a reporter interview Dawood’s widow directly – although you’d never know that was the reason from GlobalPost’s insensitive, condescending article about their interviews with Baran Akhon and Dawood’s widow (see below). So we owe a debt of gratitude to Yalda Hakim and colleagues, and to the survivors themselves, for the existence of important eyewitness accounts from Mohammad Dawood’s widow, and from her children, including indirectly through their uncle, Dawood’s brother Baran Akhon.

Screen-captured SBS-TV image of Baran Akhon, the brother of Mohammad Dawood. Mohammad Dawood was murdered in Balandi/Najiban village, Panjwai district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, on the night of March 11, 2012

Baran Akhon ("Mullah Barraan"), the brother of the late Mohammad Dawood - who was murdered near Balandi/Najiban village, Panjwai district, on March 11, 2012 in front of his wife and 6 -7 children. Baran Akhon is describing to SBS-TV reporter Yalda Hakim at the Kandahar Airfield ISAF military hospital, late in March, 2012, what Dawood's widow and children have told him about the group of American troops they saw at their home the night that Mohammad Dawood was killed

MULLAH BARRAAN [aka Baran Ahkon, brother of Mohammad Dawood] (Transcript/Translation): The Americans left the room, my brother’s children say they saw in the yard many Americans with lights on their heads and they had lights at the ends of their guns as well. They don’t know whether there were 15 or 20, or however many there were.

[Note that Barraan/Akhon is apparently referencing accounts from the same two Dawood boys shown in the CNN screen capture near the beginning of the post (who both spoke of seeing a single soldier), but he’s referencing what the children saw “in the yard” (where Mohammad Dawood was shot and killed) as opposed to in the home.]

Screen-captured SBS-TV image of Baran Akhon, the brother of Mohammad Dawood. Mohammad Dawood was murdered in Balandi/Najiban village, Panjwai district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, on the night of March 11, 2012

Baran Akhon ("Mullah Barraan"), the brother of the late Mohammad Dawood - who was murdered near Najiban village, Panjwai district, on March 11, 2012 in front of his wife and 6 -7 children. Baran Akhon is describing to SBS-TV reporter Yalda Hakim at the Kandahar Airfield ISAF military hospital, late in March, 2012, what Dawood's widow and children have told him about the group of American troops they saw at their home the night that Mohammad Dawood was killed

[Note this photograph of one version of Pentagon contractor SureFire’s weaponlights (and assorted helmet lights and headlamps) that Ralph Lopez posted in his two recent articles examining Panjwai reporting (Lopez called them “standard night-raid equipment for US forces” and “standard weapons/helmet lights for night raids”). Does the U.S./ISAF soldier shown in the last photograph on this page have such a light attached to his weapon and/or to his helmet?]

Here’s what Dawood’s widow told Yalda Hakim, shortly before March 27, during the interview screen-captured above:

I travelled back to the city of Kandahar, where I want to speak to one more survivor – Aminea – not her real name – now lives here [in Dawood’s brother’s home] with her six children in a mud hut with no electricity.

AMINEA [Dawood’s widow] (Translation): As I was dragging him [Mohammad Dawood] to the house, his brain fell into my hand and I put it into a clean handkerchief. There was so much blood – as if three sheep had been slaughtered.

Of all the stories I heard on this trip, hers was the most wrenching account of how the killings have changed this country. And how Afghan people now fear the soldiers who had promised to help them and protect them.

AMINEA [Dawood’s widow] (Translation): I had no feeling other than… if I could lay my hands on them, if I could lay my hands on those infidels, I would rip them apart with my bare hands. [A fierce defensive spirit that may have been responsible for the fact that she and her 6 young children somehow escaped unharmed, aside from the loss of their husband and father. – pow wow]

On March 22nd, Mohammad Dawood’s brother described to the Wall Street Journal part of Dawood’s widow’s eyewitness account, and his own experiences after arriving at the killing scene (presumably from his home in Kandahar city):

“The only people who have remained are those who couldn’t afford the expense of moving their families to the city,” says Mullah Baran [Akhon], a 38-year-old whose brother, Mohammad Dawood, was the first [Balandi/Najiban?] victim of the March 11 rampage, according to witnesses to the shooting, and other villagers. “The Americans said they came here to bring peace and security, but the opposite happened. Now, this village is a nest of ghosts.”

Mr. Baran, who says he had to scrape his brother’s brain and pieces of skull from the floor of their home, lost only one relative. His brother’s wife started screaming at the intruder, he says, and the gunman spared her and her six children.

On March 23rd, the referenced article recounted their interview with Mohammad Dawood’s widow this way:

[Afghan President Hamid] Karzai also spoke to Mullah Baran [Akhon]. Baran’s brother [Mohammad Dawood] was killed in the shooting spree, but he [Baran Akhon] didn’t see the shooting happen. Baran said he told Karzai what his sister-in-law [Dawood’s widow], who was at the scene, had told him.

When GlobalPost asked Baran to speak directly with his sister-in-law [Dawood’s widow], he initially refused.

“You don’t need to talk her,” Baran said. “I did, and I can tell you the story.”

Eventually Baran relented, allowing GlobalPost to interview her [Dawood’s widow] by phone.

Massouma [widow of Mohammad Dawood], who lives in the neighboring village of Najiban, where 12 people were killed, said she heard helicopters fly overhead as a uniformed soldier entered her home. She said he flashed a “big, white light,” and yelled, “Taliban! Taliban! Taliban!”

Massouma said the soldier shouted “walkie-talkie, walkie-talkie.” The rules of engagement in hostile areas in Afghanistan permit US soldiers to shoot Afghans holding walkie-talkies because they could be Taliban spotters.

“He had a radio antenna on his shoulder. He had a walkie-talkie himself, and he was speaking into it,” she said.

After the soldier with the walkie-talkie killed her husband, she said he lingered in the doorway of her home.

“While he stood there, I secretly looked through the curtains and saw at least 20 Americans, with heavy weapons, searching all the rooms in our compound, as well as my bathroom,” she said.

After they completed their search, the men left, Massouma said. She said that all seven of her children saw the attackers, but she refused to let GlobalPost speak with them.

An Afghan journalist who went to Massouma’s home in the days after the shooting and spoke with one of her sons, aged seven, said the boy told him he looked through the curtains and saw a number of soldiers — although he couldn’t say how many.

The valuable follow-up article from the Associated Press on March 24 includes this further detail:

Baran Akhon, whose brother Mohammad Dawood was also killed in Balandi, said he’s not sure how he is going to support his brother’s family. He has brought all of them to live with him in Kandahar city, but he barely makes enough selling cigarettes and other small items from his pushcart to support his own family.

Turning to the slaughter in Mohammad Wazir’s family home [located about one-half kilometer west/southwest of the Dawood home – see my July 7th post] close to the Dawood home in Balandi/Najiban, we have multiple consistent, if basic, accounts of what Wazir witnessed when he returned from Spin Boldak with his four-year-old son Habib Shah early on the morning of March 11th.

[April 22 Update: Thanks to a March 12 New York Times account by Taimoor Shah and Graham Bowley that I’d not previously seen, and to the caption on the following photograph included in their article (see the similar, but low-resolution BBC photo posted above), I was able to confirm today that the man in the photo below, speaking by “satellite phone” (on Sunday, March 11, 2012) to President Karzai, is Abdul Samad, the “60-year-old” father uncle (see Comment 19 below) of 35-year-old Mohammad Wazir of Balandi/Najiban.]

A photograph of Abdul Samad, a grandfather from Balandi/Najiban, who lost 11 family members in the March 11, 2012 Panjwai Massacre, speaking by phone with President Karzai 3/11/12

According to the New York Times, this is a March 11, 2012 photograph of Abdul Samad - the 60-year-old father uncle of 35-year-old Mohammad Wazir - of Balandi/Najiban, Panjwai, who had 11 family members (including his wife and 7 grandchildren) murdered on March 11, 2012, while he was away overnight. Photo Credit: Anzala Khilji, New York Times. (The original caption was: Abdul Samad, an Afghan who had 11 relatives killed in a massacre, expressed his outrage to President Hamid Karzai.)

From the New York Times article accompanying that photograph – an article that muddled its early accounts of family relationships and residence locations, but included this valuable information:

Published: March 12, 2012

PANJWAI, Afghanistan — Displaced by the war, Abdul Samad finally moved his large family back home to this volatile district of southern Afghanistan last year. He feared the Taliban, but his new house was nestled near an American military base, where he considered himself safe.

But when Mr. Samad, 60, walked into his mud-walled dwelling here on Sunday morning and found 11 of his relatives sprawled in all directions, shot in the head, stabbed and burned, he learned the culprit was not a Taliban insurgent.


Our government told us to come back to the village, and then they let the Americans kill us,” Mr. Samad said outside the military base, known as Camp Belambay, with outraged villagers who came to support him. […]

After years of war, Mr. Samad, a poor farmer, had been reluctant to return to his home in Panjwai, which was known in good times for its grapes and mulberries.

But unlike other displaced villagers who stayed in the city of Kandahar, about 15 miles away, and other places around the troubled province, Mr. Samad listened to the urgings of the provincial governor and the Afghan Army. They had encouraged residents to return and reassured them that American forces would protect them.

Back in his village, a collection of a few houses known as Najibian, Mr. Samad and his family moved into a neighbor’s house because his own had been destroyed by NATO bombardments in the years of fierce battles.

[…] The districts [near Kandahar city] became ground zero for the surge of force ordered at the end of 2009 by the Obama administration.

There had been little to no coalition presence in the area in the decade since the war began, and American soldiers fought hard over the past two years to clear Taliban fighters from the mud villages like Mr. Samad’s that dot the area.


“Taliban are attacking the bases, planting mines, and the bases are firing mortars and shooting indiscriminately toward the villages when they come under attack,” said Malak Muhammad Mama, 50, a villager who now lives in Kandahar. He said that a month ago, a mortar fired from the base killed a woman, and that last week a roadside bomb hit an American armored vehicle.


As for Mr. Samad, he said he was in too much despair to even think about how he would carry on with his life. But he said the lesson of the deadly shootings was clear: the Americans should leave. Mr. Karzai called Mr. Samad on Sunday [March 11] after the killings, and Mr. Samad, barefoot as he spoke plaintively into a satellite phone with district officials gathered around, told the president: “Either finish us or get rid of the Americans.”

“We made you president, and what happens to our family?” he told Mr. Karzai. “The Americans kill us and then burn the dead bodies.”

Screen-captured image of Mohammad Wazir of Balandi/Najiban village speaking to SBS-TV reporter Yalda Hakim in late March, 2012 about the murder of 11 of his relatives on March 11, 2012

Mohammad Wazir of Balandi/Najiban, Panjwai district, Kandahar province, southeastern Afghanistan, speaking in late March, 2012 to SBS-TV correspondent Yalda Hakim about the horrifying scene he found on March 11, 2012

The most thorough and detailed account of the parallel tragedy that befell Abdul Samad’s son nephew (see Comment 19 below), Mohammad Wazir, was published by the Associated Press on March 24th:


HARMARA, Afghanistan —


Wazir, who is in his mid-30s and splits his time tending his grape fields and helping with a family electronics store, was not home in Balandi that night because he had taken his youngest son to the nearby border town of Spin Boldak to have dinner with his cousins. The area is dangerous so Wazir and his son spent the night. As they were getting ready to return home in the morning, Wazir got a phone call.

The caller said Wazir’s house had been the target of a U.S. attack and some relatives had been injured, but didn’t mention any dead. He rushed home to find hundreds of people gathered outside around some bodies that they were preparing to take to Kandahar city for a funeral.

“I didn’t know that all of them were members of my family,” Wazir recounted as he sat in a friend’s courtyard in the nearby market town of Harmara, where he is staying to avoid the ghosts waiting for him at home. As he spoke, he stared down at his hands, focusing on the knife tattoo on his right knuckles.

People tried to pull him into the crowd but he said he needed to check on his family first.

“Then one of my relatives hugged me and said, ‘Nobody is there for you to talk to.'”

Still disbelieving, Wazir ran to his house and found the kitchen still filled with smoke, ashes and blood.

“I was crying and I said to my uncle, ‘Tell me, is anyone in my family alive?’ And my uncle said, ‘It is God’s will. Pull yourself together and come out.'”

Neighbors told him they had heard the gunshots but were too afraid to leave their homes. When the shooting stopped and they entered his house, they found corpses on fire. Wazir and his fellow villagers buried his family, then Wazir went to the Afghan capital, Kabul, to tell President Hamid Karzai his story [on Friday, March 16th].


Wazir says his two elder sons, 15-year-old Asmatullah and 9-year-old Faizullah, were both in school. Asmatullah was more responsible, but Faizullah was the clever one. He thought Faizullah might become a doctor some day.

Then he brought up his 2-year-old daughter, Palwasha, and his eyes brimmed over with tears.

“I can still feel her small hands on my face and feel her pulling my beard,” Wazir said as he cried and shivered in the warm air. “Even when I saw her burned body, she still had that beautiful smile.”

The Wall Street Journal added further important detail and context on March 22nd:



Mr. Wazir—judging by bloodstains, the layout of his home, and his knowledge of where his family sleeps—says his 60-year-old mother, Shah Tarina, was shot first as she greeted the intruder. In his bare bedroom, his wife Bibi Zohra was shot together with their daughters, 4-year-old Nabiya, 6-year-old Farida and 9-year-old Masooma [Age 7, per AP].

In another room, Mr. Wazir’s sons Faizullah, 12 [Age 9, per AP], and Ismatullah, 13 [Age 15 per AP], were shot dead in their beds. Then, in a third room, Mr. Wazir’s brother, Akhtar Mohammed, 20, his brother’s new bride, 18-year-old Bibi Nazia, and a nephew, Essa Mohammed, 15, were killed.

All of the bodies were found afterward, after being dragged into the front room [the kitchen, according to the AP], blankets and clothes piled on top, and then torched, Mr. Wazir and other witnesses say.

Mr. Wazir says the corpse of his 2-year-old daughter Palwasha was amid the charred bodies. He believes she was burned alive. “I checked her body, and there were no bullet marks.”


Mr. Wazir says he is haunted by guilt. “It hurts me a lot when I remember occasions when I shouted at my sons because I asked them to do something and they ignored it,” he says. “I feel so very sorry now.”

At least, he says, he can take solace in knowing he had bought his two sons two new bicycles, which they had so badly wanted, before they died.

Mr. Wazir says his family had rolls of freshly bought cloth that his wife and mother intended to use to sew new outfits for his children for the Eid al Fitr Islamic festival—still five months away. “It is still there—and there is no one to wear them,” he sighed.

Amid other mementos in his home are his children’s books, pens, pencils and toys. The Wazir kids were good in school, and Pashtun literature—full of poems and folk tales about heroic ancestors—was their favorite subject, Mr. Wazir said.

The family’s only other survivor [aside, apparently, from Wazir’s father uncle, Abdul Samad] is Mr. Wazir’s 4-year-old son Habib, who was with him on the trip to Spin Boldak. Habib didn’t realize that the burned bodies piled in his front yard were those of his mother, brothers and sisters, Mr. Wazir says.

“He was asking me about the cadavers, and I tried to make him leave, but he wouldn’t, he just kept crying,” says Mr. Wazir. “He keeps asking me about his mother, brothers and sisters. Sometimes, he wakes up in the middle of the night.”

[April 24 Update: The excerpt below is from a valuable three-minute NPR summary of an interview with Mohammad Wazir, reported by Quil Lawrence in Kabul for a Tuesday, March 20th broadcast, that I overlooked and omitted from the original post. NPR was evidently able to contact Wazir by cell phone (note that in Yalda Hakim’s 3/27 SBS-TV footage, at one point we see Mohammad Wazir, while at the table with Hakim at the Kandahar Airfield military hospital, speaking on a cell phone). “Wazir, 35, says he can hardly describe the pain of returning home to find his entire family gone. ‘As a parent, you hate to see even your child’s little finger hurt. Imagine losing 11 members of your family at once?’ he says.” NPR translated more of Mohammad Wazir’s account of his losses as follows (from the NPR transcript).]

Heard on Morning Edition

March 20, 2012 – STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It’s MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I’m Steve Inskeep.


MUHAMMAD WAZIR: (Foreign language spoken)

[QUIL] LAWRENCE: My little boy Habib Shah is the only one left alive, and I love him very much, says Wazir. The boy cried next to his father as he spoke by cellphone. Wazir admits that 4-year-old Habib Shah was his favorite, and that’s why he took the boy to travel with him. While they were away, tragedy struck their tiny, mud-brick village.

WAZIR: (Foreign language spoken)

LAWRENCE: His oldest boy, Ismatullah, had just started to grow soft whiskers. At 14, he was tall and strong; turning handsome, his father says. He was in elementary school about five years ago when fighting erupted, and all the schools closed. Ismatullah joined his father in the fields – like other boys in the village – as their district, Panjwai, became one of the biggest killings fields of the Afghan war.

WAZIR: (Foreign language spoken)

LAWRENCE: Every day after prayers and breakfast, Ismatullah would join me in the fields, and we’d work through until noon. Then he could go play, says Wazir. Ismatullah loved Tup Danda – an Afghan game like baseball. Faizullah was next oldest, about 8.

WAZIR: (Foreign language spoken)

LAWRENCE: After the schools closed, Faizullah got a little spoiled, Wazir admits. The boy loved to ride a bicycle around the village and whenever he could, he’d grab his father’s cellphone and play games on it. Also shot, stabbed and burned was Wazir’s brother, Akhtar, about 21 years old and just married; no children yet.

WAZIR: (Foreign language spoken)

LAWRENCE: Like anyone, I wanted my children to be doctors, engineers – important people. All my dreams are buried under a pile of dust now, says Wazir.

Men from Kandahar don’t traditionally talk about their wives or daughters in public, certainly not to the press. Wazir’s daughters were 12, 8, 3 and 2 years old; their names were Massoma, Farida, Palwasha [the 2-year-old] and Nabia. His 60-year-old mother, Shakarina, was killed, along with his wife, Zahra.

WAZIR: (Foreign language spoken)

LAWRENCE: I loved them all like they were parts of my own body, Wazir says. I miss all of them terribly.

Compilation courtesy of Qais Azimy of Al Jazeera (with further detail added; see also subsequent updates in Comments 13 and 16 below for details about the 6-8 dead and 3 or more wounded, based on media reports, who have apparently been omitted from this list – which I have now elaborated upon and updated in this July 7, 2012 follow-up post):


Mohamed Dawood (son of Abdullah) – a father of 6-7 children and husband of Massouma; from [near (see Comment 19)] Balandi/Najiban
Khudaydad (son of Mohamed Juma) – possibly 8-year-old Noorbinak’s father (and/or 20-year-old, per Reuters, Jan Agha’s father); a 35-year-old cousin [or nephew] of Sayed Jan per McClatchy [link broken in their 9/24 website redesign; alternative link]; from Alkozai
Nazar Mohamed – husband of (first) Shah Babo and (second) Maryam, per McClatchy; possibly (20-year-old) Jan Agha’s mother father; a brother or brother-in-law of Sayed Jan; from Alkozai [(a son) of Taj Mohammad, per CNN/Sara Sidner’s list]
Payendoaka Toraki? If so, age 2 or 3; daughter of Nazar Mohammad and his second wife Maryam (per McClatchy); otherwise, possibly (20-year-old, per Reuters) Jan Agha’s mother or sister or brother; from Alkozai if Toraki
Robeena (or “Robina” per CNN list) – aka Nikmarghah? If so, Rafiullah’s grandmother (per McClatchy), and wife of Sayed Jan; possibly (20-year-old) Jan Agha’s sister or brother; also the name of Sayed Jan’s 6-year-old niece (“Rubbinah,” daughter of Shah Babo and Nazar Mohammad), who survived, per McClatchy; from Alkozai (if not a Jan Agha relative) if Nikmarghah
Shatarina (daughter of Sultan Mohamed) – 60-year-old (per WSJ) wife sister-in-law or sister of Abdul Samad, and mother of Mohammad Wazir; from Balandi/Najiban
Zahra (daughter of Abdul Hamid) – wife of Mohammad Wazir; from Balandi/Najiban
Nazia (daughter of Dost Mohamed) – 18-year-old (per WSJ) bride of Akhtar Mohammad (brother of Mohammad Wazir); from Balandi/Najiban
Masooma (daughter of Mohamed Wazir) – 9 (or 7, per AP; or 12, per NPR) years old per WSJ; from Balandi/Najiban
Farida (daughter of Mohamed Wazir) – 6 years old per WSJ & AP; 8 years old per NPR; from Balandi/Najiban
Palwasha (daughter of Mohamed Wazir) – 2 years old per all sources; from Balandi/Najiban
Nabia (daughter of Mohamed Wazir) – 4 years old per WSJ & AP; 3 years old per NPR; from Balandi/Najiban
Esmatullah, age 16 (son of Mohamed Wazir) – 13 years old per WSJ; 15 years old per AP; 14 years old per NPR; from Balandi/Najiban
Faizullah, age 9 (son of Mohamed Wazir) – 12 years old per WSJ; 9 years old per AP; “about 8” per NPR; from Balandi/Najiban
Essa Mohamed (son of Mohamed Hussain) – 15-year-old (per WSJ) nephew of Mohammad Wazir; from Balandi/Najiban
Akhtar Mohamed (son of Murrad Ali) – 20-year-old (per WSJ; “about 21 years old” per NPR) brother of Mohammad Wazir; from Balandi/Najiban

WOUNDED [Partial List]

Haji Mohamed Naim (son of Haji Sakhawat) – the father (age 50-60 years old, per McClatchy) of the boy “Sediqullah” interviewed by Yalda Hakim; from Alkozai. [Wounded by 2 shots to the upper left chest, and by 1 shot that scraped the left side of his jaw, per McClatchy; unconscious for 4 days.]
Mohamed Sediq (son of Mohamed Naim) – evidently the young boy “Sediqullah” interviewed by Yalda Hakim; 11-year-old brother (per McClatchy) of Parmina/Parween; from Alkozai. [Shot through the ear, per DatelineSBS and McClatchy.]
Parween – evidently “Parmina” (per McClatchy), daughter of Mohammad Naim and sister of Sediqullah; from Alkozai. [Wound location unknown.]
Rafiullah – 14-year-old grandson (per McClatchy; 7-year-old nephew, per WSJ) of Sayed Jan; from Alkozai. [Shot in both legs and lost consciousness, per McClatchy.]
Zardana – 7-year-old granddaughter (per McClatchy; 6-year-old niece, per WSJ) of Sayed Jan; from Alkozai. [Shot in the head, per WSJ and McClatchy.]
Zulheja – child?; from Alkozai? [Wound location unknown.]

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  1. 1
    pow wow says:

    I can’t help but note that – if the examples above (generated by nominally-unbiased journalists) of conflicting and confused basic facts about life-and-death events in Afghanistan are anything akin to the hastily-gathered, questionably-sourced (but “Top Secret”) “intelligence” reports collected by our government about alleged enemies in that region in 2001-2002 – most, if not all, of the federal judges sitting on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (the appellate Circuit with sole jurisdiction over Guantanamo, at Supreme Court direction) would nevertheless today quickly stamp the collection of muddled reports above with their newly-created “presumptively regular” label – provided only that the muddle was a government-generated muddle, rather than the work of media outsiders.

    By so doing, the D.C. Circuit bench of federal judges would ensure that false and conflicting versions of events would never get exposed or corrected in a court of law (yes, there might really be two different men by the name of “Agha Lala” in that part of Afghanistan’s Kandahar Panjwai district…, etc., etc.), and that the government, and government-contractor, “intelligence” purveyors would continue to get away with using their “Top Secret”-shielded, untested muddle of information against those vulnerable to their federal police/military powers, in whatever way they choose. Or unless and until clear and convincing evidence (as defined by the D.C. Circuit…) disproving their muddle was somehow generated by non-English-speaking, sometimes illiterate foreign prisoners in our military prison(s) – who aren’t even permitted to read the government’s muddled “intelligence” information supposedly justifying their indefinite imprisonment under “the law of war,” and who, having been deprived of their liberty (by force of arms, rather than force of due process of law), haven’t been free to gather such evidence – in person, by phone, or by mail (never mind by email or by Google search) – anywhere, for an entire decade now.

    And there’s no need to take my word for it. Here’s a damning March 5, 2012 account by Leonard Goodman, the pro bono lawyer for functionally-illiterate Afghan detainee Shawali Khan – who’s been detained in Guantanamo for 9 years, and counting, on the strength of allegations made by a single unidentified Afghan informant to an unidentified American intelligence officer. Goodman’s account details just how outrageously the government has been permitted by the D.C. Circuit appellate (and thus D.C. District trial court) judges to wield its untested “intelligence reports” against the foreign prisoners locked up in fenced-off, out-of-sight, out-of-mind, military prison camps – which have, with impunity, deliberately withheld law-of-war POW rights and protections from every single foreign prisoner since they opened in 2002.

    [English jurist Sir William Blackstone, writing in 1753: “Some have thought that unjust attacks, even upon life or property, at the arbitrary will of the magistrate, are less dangerous to the commonwealth than such as are made upon the personal liberty of the subject. […] [C]onfinement of the person, by secretly hurrying him to jail, where his sufferings are unknown or forgotten, is a less public, a less striking, and therefore a more dangerous engine of arbitrary government.]

    And then there’s this voice of experience, responding to the infamous, heavily-redacted October, 2011 (Guantanamo habeas corpus) Latif “presumption-of-regularity” panel decision by D.C. Circuit federal appellate Judge Janice Rogers Brown – and to the laudable, energetic, and damning, if overdue (given the course of events), dissent to the majority opinion by Judge David Tatel. [See also: Latif’s petition for a writ of certiorari submitted to the Supreme Court on January 12, 2012. ((Edited September 23 to add: “Overdue” was an understatement. On June 11, 2012, we learned that the Supreme Court had privately decided to refuse, without comment or dissent, to grant the Latif cert petitioners (pleading for Supreme Court review of the 2-1 lower D.C. Circuit panel ruling) a hearing before them. Three months to the day later, we learned from the U.S. military that, on Saturday, September 8, 2012, 36-year-old Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif of Yemen died in his “disciplinary” cell at the American Naval Station prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, of still-unknown causes — more than 10 years after he was transported there as a de facto non-POW “wartime detainee” based on a single faulty “intelligence report” and eight years after the U.S. military first recommended that Latif be transferred out of U.S. custody.))] The experienced-in-defeat (by the D.C. Circuit, and the turned back of the Supreme Court) attorney for the Uighurs – who disgracefully remain in Guantanamo today to the complete indifference of the federal judges on the D.C. Circuit appellate bench – Sabin Willett:

    I tried Parhat. He had an intelligence report too. We picked it apart, as I’m sure Latif’s lawyers must have done with their report, and as Judge Garland did in the classified Parhat opinion. No one could make a straight-faced argument for a presumption [of “regularity” in the government’s favor] after that was done. You have to – I can’t say this any other way, because Parhat’s documents remain classifiedbut you have to see an “intelligence report” to appreciate just how surreal the proposition [of such a “presumption of regularity” for such material] is.

    The trial lawyer would think this way: if this tissue of hearsay, speculation, and gossip comes in evidence at all, the trial court must at least be allowed to weigh it. But when the circuit lays the thumb of presumption on the scale, there’s no more judicial review — not even in the court of appeals. “Review” is in the anonymous DoD analyst who wrote the report.


    A man sits in government prison for ten years and counting, on the strength of a secret document created by the jailer, in haste, from hearsay, which didn’t persuade an experienced trial judge. Does that sound like the stuff of regimes we are prone to condemn?


    After ten years, it’s not about security any more. It’s all about politics: the politics of the 2012 elections, the politics of where you’re from.– Uighur Attorney P. Sabin Willett, November 17, 2011

  2. 2
    pow wow says:

    A few more facts not included above, or previously reported as far as I know, were relayed by Yalda Hakim yesterday – including that the boy Sediqullah apparently also had “family memberskilled, more about the circumstances of the Dawood home shooting, and more about the third eyewitness child she spoke to (who’s not mentioned or on camera in the 3/27 Dateline footage) – during an April 11 CNN interview of Hakim by Soledad O’Brien:

    [Yalda] HAKIM: Absolutely. I mean, there were some disparities between the story. A little girl [Noorbinak] that I spoke to told me that she saw numerous Americans in her home, and that young boy [Sediqullah, shown on a video clip] told me that there was one American inside his house killing his family members.


    HAKIM: Yes. It was conflicted. I mean, [I] spoke to four witnesses in total. Three of who were children. And, of course, it’s always difficult to know whether a child actually saw what they did. I spoke to one adult. Her name was Aminah [Massouma, widow of Mohammad Dawood from near Balandi/Najiban], and she told me about how her husband was shot in [the] head and how she dragged him back into the house and his brains were in her hands.

    She told me that 15 to 20 Americans were out in her yard. When she went outside to find out what had happened, they told her to go back inside or she would be killed, too. That’s the claim that she made. And like I said, there were some disparities in the story. (INAUDIBLE) [Noorbinak of Alkozai?] said there were several Americans in her house.

    Aminah, it’s not her real name. She wasn’t actually allowed to speak to anyone. It was the first [or second – after the 3/22 GlobalPost phone interview?] time that she’s actually spoken to anyone, and it was only because I was able to speak the language, and I was a woman that I was able to get access to her. She told me there were several Americans in her yard. But, of course, the two young boys I spoke to [the second of whom (unlike Sediqullah) is presumably may not be from the northern village, Alkozai, not but from the southern village of Dawood’s widow Massouma/”Aminea,” as indicated by the April 27 Updates in the post], the other two witnesses [meaning that the third eyewitness child Hakim spoke to is not a second girl (the wounded daughter of Mohammad Naim), as I surmised in the post], said only one American soldier entered their house and began to shoot at them.

  3. 3
    pow wow says:

    To obtain a broader perspective on the actions of the U.S. military in Afghanistan today, I highly recommend this April 11 interview (link for both video and transcript) of Lt. Col. Daniel Davis of the U.S. Army (who will be receiving the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling later this month) by Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh of DemocracyNow!.

    In early February, Lt. Col. Davis (a 17-year Army veteran still on active duty) wrote an article for The Armed Forces Journal entitled “Truth, lies and Afghanistan.” Scott Shane quickly followed-up in the New York Times with an account of Davis’s (genuinely “troop-supporting” and impressively-executed) whistleblowing:

    Colonel Davis says his experience has caused him to doubt reports of progress in the war from numerous military leaders, including David H. Petraeus, who commanded the troops in Afghanistan before becoming the director of the Central Intelligence Agency in June.

    Last March [in 2011, while Davis was in Afghanistan], for example, Mr. Petraeus, then an Army general, testified before the Senate that the Taliban’s momentum had been “arrested in much of the country” and that progress was “significant,” though fragile, and “on the right azimuth” to allow Afghan forces to take the lead in combat by the end of 2014.

    Colonel Davis fiercely disputes such assertions and says few of the troops believe them. At the same time, he is acutely aware of the chasm in stature that separates him from those he is criticizing, and he has no illusions about the impact his public stance may have on his career.


    Some of the soldiers he interviewed were later killed, a fact that shook him and that he mentions in videos he shot in Afghanistan and later posted on YouTube [including 3 minutes of footage of a “dismounted” (walking) patrol in the “horn of” the Panjwai district in August, 2011 (which is the general region of Panjwai where the March 11 murders occurred)]. At home, he pored over the statements of military leaders, including General Petraeus. He found them at odds with what he had seen, with classified intelligence reports and with casualty statistics.

    Davis’s February article in the AFJournal was a snoypsis of an unclassified 86-page January/February, 2012 report that he wrote (along with a classified version for Members of Congress – including Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina – the DOD Inspector General, and others) after returning from a year in Afghanistan in October, 2011 (which was his second deployment there; his first was in 2005). [Merkley is not on the Senate Armed Services Committee; no mention is made of SASC Chairman Carl Levin, or whether he, like Jones and Merkley (and three other Senators) agreed to meet with Davis despite “a lot of resistance from the Pentagon” (as Merkley put it).]

    While Davis was waiting for the Army to clear his 86-page report for public release, Michael Hastings at Rolling Stone obtained it and published it in full. [The Rolling Stone version of the report was apparently a draft; the New York Times subsequently published a copy of the final version of the unclassified report that Lt. Col. Davis had submitted to the Army for clearance review.] A month thereafter, the United States Army’s Public Affairs Office told Davis that they had found no classified materials in his report (or article), but declined to act on his request for official clearance for public release (citing as a reason that both were already in the public domain); as a result Davis himself cannot release his own January report, and has not.

    As Lt. Col. Davis noted in his April 11th interview with Amy Goodman:

    I will argue that I may have had the single best seat to really get an idea of what’s going on in Afghanistan of anybody. And that may seem a little counterintuitive at first, because I’m a relatively mid-level-ranking soldier, and there’s a lot higher, and there’s a lot of other people that have greater access to certain locations, etc. But owing to the nature of my job and responsibilities there, which was to ensure that units had the kind of equipment that they needed to succeed, if they didn’t have something, how to—that they needed to get it, etc., so my job was to travel around all over the country and talk to leaders at every level, from the division commander or what’s called a regional command, in this case, two-star generals, all the way down to brigade commanders, battalion company platoon leaders, all the way down to the soldiers that are going out on patrol.

    I’m high enough in rank to where some of the senior officers would—you know, would talk to me and tell me what they really thought about things, because they had an incentive to tell me ground truth, because, you know, the idea was to—what can we do to help your troops out in the field? And obviously, the guys out in the field also had an incentive to tell me exactly what was going on, as well. And I’m not so high in rank that any of them would be intimidated by me, and they had motivation to tell me, you know, ground truth so that I could perhaps help them get some equipment or gear that they needed in order to do their job more effectively and to be able to stay alive, which, incidentally, was one of the bright points, I guess, in this deployment, because I was able to do things that, you know, would actually help keep troops alive. And that was very rewarding to me. Unfortunately, it was almost working at cross-purposes when I saw the things going on.

    So, I didn’t want to just go to offices and talk to people. I didn’t want to just go to brigade commands and that kind of thing. But I wanted to—first, to do that, but then also to go out where the things are happening, you know, to go outside the wire, to go on dismounted patrols, to go on mounted patrols, to attend some coalition patrols, to talk to the—what’s called the key leader engagements, where we visited with the Afghan leaders, with the Afghan people. And I was able to do parts of all those in virtually every important part of Afghanistan over the course of 12 months, from the north to the east to the southeast and into the south of the country. So I really had a good view to be able to say what’s going on out there, I believe.

    The unclassified report that Davis submitted for Army review in January prior to public release – entitled “Dereliction of Duty II: Senior Military Leaders’ Loss of Integrity Wounds Afghan War Effort” – opens this way:

    “Senior ranking U.S. military leaders have so distorted the truth when communicating with the U.S. Congress and American people in regards to conditions on the ground in Afghanistan that the truth has become unrecognizable.”

    As Davis rightly emphasized in his AFJournal article:



    No one expects our leaders to always have a successful plan. But we do expect — and the men who do the living, fighting and dying deserve — to have our leaders tell us the truth about what’s going on.


    If Americans were able to compare the public statements many of our leaders have made with classified data, this credibility gulf would be immediately observable. Naturally, I am not authorized to divulge classified material to the public. But I am legally able to share it with members of Congress. I have accordingly provided a much fuller accounting in a classified report to several members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, senators and House members.


    When it comes to deciding what matters are worth plunging our nation into war and which are not, our senior leaders owe it to the nation and to the uniformed members to be candid — graphically, if necessary — in telling them what’s at stake and how expensive potential success is likely to be. U.S. citizens and their elected representatives can decide if the risk to blood and treasure is worth it.

    Likewise when having to decide whether to continue a war, alter its aims or to close off a campaign that cannot be won at an acceptable price, our senior leaders have an obligation to tell Congress and [the] American people the unvarnished truth and let the people decide what course of action to choose. That is the very essence of civilian control of the military. The American people deserve better than what they’ve gotten from their senior uniformed leaders over the last number of years. Simply telling the truth would be a good start.

    Reinforcing the picture Davis paints of a politicized, duty-shirking, and unaccountable chain of command, here’s part of an account by Neil Shea, a reporter who was embedded with a U.S. platoon for part of the year Davis was in Afghanistan (summer, 2011), published last month by The American Scholar, entitled “A Gathering Menace” – which recounts an attitude among U.S. combat troops toward the Afghan people that has apparently gone unchecked by responsible officers, and ominously echoes the savage behavior manifested in the Panjwai slaughter:

    Up ahead, in the stream of black shapes, were the American soldiers I had come to fear. They were men who enjoyed demolishing Afghan houses, men who shot dogs in the face.


    I joined the platoon last summer [2011] at the end of a weeklong mission designed to clear insurgents from a series of towns and valleys in central Afghanistan. In 10 years of war, I was told, NATO troops had never visited the region. Intelligence reports called it a Taliban stronghold, and commanders expected heavy fighting. Going in, many soldiers told me they believed they would die.

    Destroyer and several other units had dropped into the valleys by helicopter at night. During the day, they pushed through a sun-killed landscape of rock and withered grasses, where it was Destroyer’s job to search for weapons caches and battle insurgents alongside a wobbly unit of Afghan National Army (ANA) troops.

    Each night, the men slept in abandoned qalats (fortified residential compounds), or they moved into occupied ones, handed the residents some cash, and kicked them out. […]


    It was the last day of the long mission. After midnight helicopters would retrieve Destroyer and the other units working in the area. The soldiers waited in their rooms, killing time. […]

    “Feels like it’s been a month,” a soldier said.

    “I can’t wait to wash my hair,” said another, smoothing his dark mop. “Man, we fucked up some houses, shit.”

    Givens [not his real name] laughed and leaned against his gear. He was slim, boyish, unscalded by his own anger. He hated Afghans.

    “Yeah, we definitely made some Taliban out here,” he said. “It was like a week-long Taliban recruiting drive. And we had fun doing it. I love recruiting for the Taliban. It’s called job security.”

    They passed around packs of Pine cigarettes they had “liberated” during the raid and taunted each other with gay jokes. On the walls the Afghan homeowners had hung posters and odd pictures torn from magazines. An image of a yellow sports car, a photograph of Mecca, an idyllic scene of a cabin in Austria or Germany. Dreams beyond war. Beneath them, the men tipped cigarettes onto the floor and lit detonation cord on the rug, burning black coils into the fabric. A few men retold plans to kill former wives and girlfriends. Givens and one of his close friends talked of blowing up the qalat as they left, a parting thank-you to the residents of the valley.


    In speech we give ideas life. I felt I was watching some of the men unravel toward serious crimes, if, in fact, they had not already committed them elsewhere in Afghanistan or Iraq. Evil or atrocity often explodes from a furnace built by the steady accretion of small, unchallenged wrongs. Some men in Destroyer platoon had been drifting that way for a long time.


    Yet the Afghan war no longer relies so much on combat. The mission is nuanced, and future success, even sane withdrawal, demands Afghan cooperation [or empowerment, which seems to have been denied the Afghan people under “foreign forces” occupation and the corrupt outsider-financed national Afghan government – pow wow]. Soldiers like Givens, so barely restrained, their switches unreliable after years of war, undermine this.


    I sat nearby with another sergeant from the platoon. I had noticed this man distance himself from Givens’s clique. Givens occasionally tried to drag him into things, but the sergeant steadfastly refused. We listened to the plastic crunch beneath Givens’s heel. It was funny, in a way.

    “He is a hater,” I said to the sergeant, trying to joke. His face tightened.

    “He’s bad. He’s real bad. He sees someone having fun with something, he just wants to kill it. I don’t want to have nothing to do with that.”

  4. 4
    pow wow says:

    [Thanks, Gary Moore. Very well done “Screen Capture” post (despite the absence of links/sources…).]

    I just discovered an excellent, graphically-illustrated write-up of the accounts of the March 11th Panjwai killings (including carefully-researched maps of the area) at the blog of Gary Moore – apparently published a couple of days after the post above – which I highly recommend as a supplement to this one. [Moore is an “investigative journalist [who] has specialized in large-scale human rights incidents internationally, worked for the United Nations a year in the Balkans, in part as a special war crimes investigator for international judges, and received the William Allen White Award for excellence in regional magazine journalism.”]

    In his April 12 “The Kandahar Massacre: An Encyclopedia of the Clues,” Moore attempts to comprehensively catalog the killings by village, home, family, name, and age, to the best of his ability – evidently independently drawing on many of the same sources I did, but coming to some different conclusions as to the identities/locales of individuals killed and wounded that night.

    There are several conflicts in our conclusions about the victims, but our assessments of the coverage closely mirror each other, and it seems that the motivation for the writing of our posts was the same – to try to bring clarity to the jumbled muddle of reporting about the horrific killings, in an effort to ascertain exactly what happened, who was killed and wounded, and by whom.

    Potentially resolving one mystery in my post, Gary lists the 26-year-old Mohammad Zahir (quoted in this March 12th AP article) as the brother of the 28-year-old farmer “Habibullah” who GlobalPost spoke to, and places both brothers in the same home (the center home of three homes in Alkozai that were attacked that night). If that’s true, then I do have Zahir placed in the right Alkozai home that night, although I didn’t previously know that Zahir was another member of that family, or of his relationship to Habibullah.
    [10/26/2013: Follow-up reporting excerpted in Comment 12 below, and accounts from Army hearings detailed in subsequent posts, revealed that Habibullah‘s a son of Haji Mohammad Naim – who was shot and wounded in the chest and jaw, not in the thigh. Thus the location of the home where 26-year-old “Mohammad Zahir” – who was quoted by both the Associated Press and the Guardian – saw his unnamed wounded father shot in the thigh, remains an unsolved and unexplained mystery (SSG Robert Bales did not admit to shooting Mohammad Zahir’s father; Haji Mohammad Naim was the only one of six wounded charged to Bales who was a married adult).]

    [Edited to add: Information in the next two paragraphs was corrected by subsequent reporting – see Comment 19 below and my July 7 follow-up post. Abdul Samad is the uncle of Mohammad Wazir, no adult sister survived the attack on the Wazir home, and neither Noorbinak nor Sediqullah is a member of the Mohammad Dawood family.]

    [See preceding bracketed paragraph.] Gary also indicates that Mohammad Wazir’s father [the man identified as “Abdul Samad,” and Age 60, says Gary – who might therefore be almost certainly is the man in the post photograph (who I’d tentatively identified as Sayed Jan) speaking with President Karzai by cell satellite phone (see the second, clearer photograph of Abdul Samad that I added to the post’s Balandi/Najiban section on April 22nd)] also survived the killing in Balandi/Najiban by being away from home, and that Mohammad Wazir had an adult sister who was home that night but survived by hiding (if true, she sounds like a rare and valuable eyewitness who hasn’t been interviewed by non-Afghan media, perhaps because she’s female).

    Gary deduces – unlike me – that Noorbinak and Sediqullah are 2 of the 6-7 children of Mohammad (and Massouma) Dawood of Balandi/Najiban (without making enough of a case for that deduction to change my mind on that front). Interestingly, Gary’s (uncited) source(s) have the 8-year-old “Shokriya” of the Sayed Jan/Jahn household of Alkozai as a daughter (not a nephew) – which might mean that my theory that Noorbinak is from that household (as a niece, rather than a nephew, or a daughter, of Sayed Jan) gains some reinforcement.

    Also, it appears that Gary has mistaken the brother of Mohammad Dawood (murdered in Balandi/Najiban) – who’s the man identified by me in the post above as Baran Akhon (aka “Mullah Barraan” of Kandahar city) – as the brother of Sayed Jan of Alkozai (correcting that mistake should help clarify some other points of confusion in his post, that I believe my post has right, about the testimony of eyewitnesses).

    Gary Moore gives this valuable context for the location of Camp Belamby:

    The general location of Camp Belamby is in the Zangabad sector of the Panjwai district of Kandahar province. News coverage suggests it is at about 31° 28′ 46″ latitude and 65° 23′ 45″ longitude, less than 20 miles from the large provincial capital of Kandahar, though quickly the road leads into a notorious outback, the 19-mile-long “Horn of Panjwai,” a narrowing, largely depopulated crescent of fertile farmland in a river fork.

    A once-heavy Taliban presence here was uprooted in 2006 by massive NATO strikes in Operation Medusa, then came back again as if the gains were made in quicksand, and then was blowtorched out once more by the U.S. troop surge of 2009-2010—after which the insurgency converted to hit-and-run infiltration. Minefields, roadside bombs, ambushes and snipers remain a mortal concern.

    And he even found an Associated Press account acknowledging the confusion over the name of the southernmost village (no link given):

    The Associated Press, providing its usual benchmark service of detailed review, seemed to be the only medium confessing that there was any confusion: U.S. and Afghan officials have identified the villages where the killings occurred as Balandi and Alkozai. But the defense ministry said the shootings occurred in Najiban and Alkozai. The reason for the discrepancy was unclear.” Small clues suggest that Najiban may be a sub-cluster of Balandi, which is a sub-cluster of Zangabad.

    [If Gary’s right about the “Zangabad” locale of this part of Panjwai (this tweet notes a March 11 comment by President Karzai mentioning Zangabad), an October, 2011 Quil Lawrence/NPR report – “Afghans Allegedly Forced Onto Mined Roads” – concerning Zangabad and environs (specifically, the area near the villages of Zangabad, Talukan, and Mushan, which are located fourzerotwelveseven miles southwest [see the map and photos added to my July post on December 11th] of Camp Belamby and Najiban, perhaps in the vicinity of a FOB/COP “Zangabad”) gains new import and relevance. (The alleged incident – described to Lawrence by elders and villagers, but denied by government and military officials – took place in early September, 2011, two-three months before SSG Bales was apparently deployed to Afghanistan.) See also how the Spanish news agency described the area near Camp Belamby and Mokhoyan on March 13th: “…en la zona de Zangabad, del distrito de Panjwai…”]

    It’s heartening to see another such account finally attempting to make sense of the reportorial muddle – and it’s clear that Gary put a lot of work into it. Do give it a read.

    [May 22 Update/Note: Sometime since this comment was written, the long post of Gary’s I cite and link here seems to have been removed from his site, without explanation.]

  5. 5
    pow wow says:

    “…in spite of the attempt by at least one American media outlet to place blame for the confused reporting on the traumatized and grieving victims, and the efforts of many in the media to imply that the real story is now shrouded in mystery or unobtainable, in the face of heavy Pentagon/NATO/ISAF pressure to toe the U.S. military’s “lone gunman” line on the attacks…” – pow wow

    As a case in point, see this classic of the genre published by Jon Stephenson of McClatchy at about the same time as this post, which I saw for the first time today. Stephenson’s name is on one of the most confused early reports about the killings, as excerpted in the post above, and his April 11th article (this time with no co-author) seems at first an attempt to explain and remedy some of that confusion.

    [Those links are actually to a version of the article that was first published on April 15th by the Kansas City Star, which is where I first saw it on 4/16. The original April 11 McClatchy-published version also includes probably the best map I’ve seen yet of the affected villages – it focuses on details of Camp Belamby/Belambai’s surroundings, is scaled by the mile/km, and even includes Mokhoyan, though Stephenson doesn’t mention that village in the accompanying article. Notably, and clarifying the confused March 11-12 McClatchy article I excerpted in the post, the new article’s map shows Alkozai to the north/northwest of Camp Belamby, Najiban to the south/southeast of Camp Belamby (and Mokhoyan to the east of Camp Belamby). If the map is accurate, it seems to show Alkozai as further away from Camp Belamby than Najiban, at least as the crow flies, contrary to their usual descriptions.]

    For example, Stephenson helpfully details how the story unfolded for Kandahar-based reporters, and adds an important, if undetailed, corroborating account about a roadside crater that was pointed out to reporters as the marker of a key event preceding the killings (the roadside bombing that Mirwais Khan of the Associated Press reported in detail on March 21):

    For reporters in Kandahar, news about the killings started trickling in shortly after sunrise that day. “Come quickly,” they were told. “There’s been a massacre.” They grabbed their notebooks and cameras, scrambled for their cars, and headed for Panjway.

    Near the district center, a convoy carrying two senior Afghan officialsHaji Agha Lalai, the head of Kandahar’s provincial council, and Asadullah Khalid, Afghanistan’s minister of tribal and border affairs and formerly governor of Kandahar provincelinked up with reporters. Their vehicles roared along a paved road that winds its way past fields and farms, flanked in places by hills and mountains. Soldiers and policemen stood to attention outside the many checkpoints and bases that punctuate the landscape.

    Turning onto a dusty road, they came to the small but heavily fortified joint U.S.-Afghan base known as Camp Belambay. A crowd of local villagers sat nearby while Afghan soldiers stood guard at the main gate, nervously cradling their assault rifles.

    The officials were ushered inside along with Afghan journalists who’d reached the scene. The dead, who had been shot and in some cases stabbed, lay shrouded in blankets just outside the base.

    Khalid and Agha Lalai were shown the bodies. “They were really angry,” said one Afghan journalist, who asked not to be identified to protect his job. “They were very upset because the bodies were burnt, the children were burnt. It was a horrible scene.”

    Khalid called President Karzai to report the news. “Are the media there?” Karzai asked him, according to two Afghan journalists who witnessed the phone call. “Make sure the media know. Make sure they see everything.”

    A few journalists were taken the short distance to a nearby house at Najiban, where at least 11 of the victims were shot and stabbed. The mood inside was tense. On the way they passed a massive hole in the road. Villagers and Afghan officials have told reporters that this was the site of a homemade bomb blast that struck a U.S. armored vehicle a day or two prior to the slaughter.

    But Stephenson then proceeds to generalize and essentially dismiss out-of-hand as unreliable and in conflict unspecified witness accounts, that he makes no effort to identify or organize by village, family, name or age – work that’s crucial to the process of unearthing real conflicts of fact that would be a genuine cause for skepticism about eyewitness accounts (including of the many traumatized children involved).

    A month after the fact, Stephenson seems singularly uninterested in the detailed, specific accounts of the Afghan witnesses themselves, and overly-solicitous to report every nuance of the politically-spun accounts of officials who have no first-hand knowledge about what happened that night. This is all the more remarkable and unfortunate (as is his 3/11-12 article’s confusion of the village locations), given that the latest article reports that Stephenson, a McClatchy Newspapers special correspondent, was the first Western journalist to reach the scene of the massacre at Najiban, Afghanistan.”

    Stephenson interviewed and quotes Bette Dam – a Dutch journalist who spent a week in Kandahar reporting on the killings for, and whose name is on the important, but condescending 3/23 (updated 3/29) GlobalPost account quoted in the post (Dam’s actual reporting details are good; perhaps her report was reworked by editors?).

    After repeating some of Dam’s earlier reporting, Stephenson uses Dam’s remarks about Habibullah’s account (though Stephenson, unlike Dam, doesn’t bother to name Habibullah) of the shootings he witnessed in Alkozai (specifically, Habibullah’s frank – and translated – admission that he can’t specify a precise timeline, etc.) to try to call into question the account of the widow of Mohammad Dawood from [near] Balandi/Najiban (though he doesn’t identify her either), because the killings happened “in the dark” – thus completely ignoring the multiple accounts from witnesses and family members (including Dawood’s children) that soldiers accompanying the shooter(s) were carrying lights, allowing both the shooter(s) to see and the victims to see soldiers who were in their yards/homes, even in the middle of the night.

    This significant piece of information conveyed by Dam to Stephenson is also used by him (and possibly also by Dam) to try to cast doubt on the accounts of the witnesses to the March 11th slaughter (none of whom Stephenson interviewed for this article published a month after the attacks):

    “One villager told me that every house in that area has been searched (by groups of soldiers) more than once,” said Dam.

    Though he writes to describe the “spin” and lack of clarity in the reporting and accounts about that night, Stephenson’s article serves only to subtly reinforce the prevailing U.S./ISAF/NATO government narrative that it’s all too much of a Mystery for Westerners to grasp, and too Foreign to bother with – implying that we ought not concern ourselves with it, and should instead just let Bales – in the fullness of time, to one degree or another – take the fall for every brutal act done, by at least one member of the American military that night, to those unarmed Afghan men, women, and children.

  6. 6
    pow wow says:

    With regard to the U.S. military’s investigation of the Panjwai war crimes, two anonymous sources told the Associated Press a couple of weeks ago that Army investigators first arrived in Panjwai at the beginning of April:

    PAULINE JELINEK and LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press
    Thursday, April 5, 2012

    (04-05) 15:41 PDT WASHINGTON, (AP) — More than three weeks after the massacre of 17 civilians in Afghanistan, U.S. military investigators finally have gotten their first look at the villages where Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales allegedly carried out the shooting rampage.

    Army criminal investigators visited the villages early this week to collect forensic evidence, two senior defense officials said Thursday. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of prohibitions against talking about the ongoing investigation into the March 11 killings.

    Investigators stayed away from the shooting sites for more than three weeks to avoid aggravating tensions with angry villagers.

    It wasn’t known how much or what kind of evidence they were able to find so long after the shootings.

    The same day, drawing on reporting by CNN, reported:

    US Army criminal investigators have completed their first visit to the two villages in Kandahar where 17 Afghan civilians were killed and the army outpost where Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, who is charged with the civilians’ murders, served, according to a US official speaking to CNN.

    The official declined to be identified or discuss what evidence had been gathered, CNN reported. The Army will also not say when exactly investigators were there or if they are going back, because of concerns over their safety in the vicinity of the villages.

    It was the first visit by US investigators, who had been staying away out of respect to angry villagers, since the massacre on March 11.

    Until the village visit, the Army has been relying on evidence collected by Afghan officials at the two villages.


    CNN reported there were more than 24 army criminal investigation agents working on the case, with all evidence gathered by US officials being collected and processed at the Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory at Fort Gillem in the US state of Georgia, according to Chris Grey, chief of public affairs for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command.

    Reinforcing accounts in the post about the U.S. military preventing Afghan journalists and investigators from accessing wounded survivors of the shootings, on March 30th, USA TODAY quoted a statement made by attorneys for the accused Army soldier:

    By Donna Leinwand Leger, USA TODAY
    Updated: 2012-03-30 9:41 PM

    “We are facing an almost complete information blackout from the government which is having a devastating effect on our ability to investigate the charges preferred against our client,” the defense team wrote in a statement issued from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Tacoma, Wash., where Bales had been stationed before deploying Dec. 1 to Afghanistan.

    The attorneys say officials at Kandahar Hospital denied them access to survivors and told them to coordinate with prosecutors, who interviewed the wounded. The government also denied access to medical records and a blimp video the Army says captured images of Bales leaving his Army outpost in Kandahar, they said.

    “We found out shortly after the prosecution interviews of the injured civilians that the civilians were all released from the hospital and there was no contact information for them,” the statement said. “The prosecution is withholding the entire investigative file from the defense team while the potential witnesses scatter into unknown and potentially unaccessible areas in Afghanistan.”

    April 27 Update 1 of 2: In this April 23rd post, Ralph Lopez linked to a report in the Los Angeles Times, which quotes a Bales defense attorney saying this about the same incident:

    “People on our staff in Afghanistan went to the hospital where there supposedly were eyewitnesses to this … and we were told by the prosecutors to come back the next day, which is fine. We went back the next day, and they’d all been released from the hospital and they’d all been scattered throughout Afghanistan. That was a violation of the trust we had in the prosecutors,”…

    “We’ve been misled greatly…. They were promised to be there, and they were not,” he said, adding that there isn’t much hope of finding the witnesses now. “People just disappear into the Afghan countryside.”

    April 27 Update 2 of 2: In another April 23rd post, Ralph Lopez included a link to a post that helpfully describes the extensive resources available to U.S. Army investigators in Afghanistan:

    “However, for a number of years the U.S. military has operated complex forensic facilities in every region of Afghanistan capable of fingerprint and DNA analysis, ballistics testing, forensic chemistry and more. In fact, collecting complex evidence to be used in the trials of Afghan insurgents is a common practice for U.S. soldiers. Both the U.S. Army and ISAF have issued guides to soldiers regarding the collection of evidence in support of prosecution of insurgency crimes.

    ISAF’s evidence collection guide details how to interview witnesses, perform chemical tests, collect DNA evidence, photograph the crime scene, analyze tire marks and footprints and how to eventually turn all this evidence over to Afghan courts while maintaining a chain of custody. […] A presentation from the U.S. Army’s Office of the Provost Marshal General indicates that as of August 2011 there were three Joint Expeditionary Forensics Facilities (JEFFs) throughout Afghanistan including one in Kandahar, the same province where Staff Sgt. Bales reportedly committed the massacre. These forensics facilities are capable of DNA analysis, latent print identification, photographic forensics, as well as chemical and ballistic analysis. The presentation also indicates that there are centralized crime labs operated in coordination with the Afghan government capable of many of the same methods of forensic analysis.


    …it remains to be seen whether the U.S. military will present the same level of forensic evidence that it routinely collects and analyzes when attempting to prosecute suspected insurgents.”

    As for the actions of the accused on the night in question, note the glaring contradiction between these media-conveyed “intelligence reports” about the March 11 (and since) behavior of the only soldier charged to date for the shootings/stabbings/burnings of more than 24 Afghan civilians:

    A March 12, 2012 report by Taimoor Shah and Graham Bowley in the New York Times:

    Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said Monday [March 12] that the staff sergeant returned to the base after the killings “and basically turned himself in, told individuals what had happened.” Asked if the soldier had confessed, Mr. Panetta replied, “I suspect that was the case.”

    Mr. Panetta, who spoke to reporters on his plane en route to Kyrgyzstan, said that it was an Afghan soldier at the base who first noticed that the sergeant was missing. “He reported it, they did a bed check, they had prepared a search team to go out and try to find out where he was when they got news of what had happened, and this individual then turned himself in,” he said.

    Versus this March 28, 2012 report by Carol D. Leonnig in the Washington Post:

    [Civilian lawyer John Henry] Browne, in an interview, did not acknowledge any wrongdoing by Bales, but the lawyer said his client told him that, on the night of the shootings, he returned to his base in southern Afghanistan with only a foggy memory of what had just happened. Bales, Browne said, remembered the smell of gunfire and of human bodies but not much more.

    The lawyer stressed that Bales did not confess, as military officials have said, and seemed surprised when his weapon was taken away [because it was “all in a night’s ‘work'”… – or because Bales was just one of many returning from the night’s ‘raids’?? – pow wow].


    As Bales and others in his unit sought to help the Afghan police secure an area, they fended off attacks from people who appeared to be civilians and Afghan allies.

    “It was dispiriting,” Browne said. “He said he was really confused about why they were” in Afghanistan.

    And this (poorly-researched, anonymously single-sourced) March 29, 2012 account by Nick Paton Walsh of CNN:

    “The whole base was woken up,” the [“U.S.”] official [“who has knowledge of the investigation but did not want to be identified discussing an ongoing inquiry”] said, for an accountability check — a rare instance in which a small unit of soldiers on a base have to count their number.

    A search party was then formed, but within a few meters of leaving the compound, it ran into Bales, who had been spotted by a surveillance camera returning toward the base.

    That was at 3:30 a.m., about 2½ hours after he first left the base, the official said, stressing that fashioning a precise timeline of that night has been challenging.

    U.S. soldiers noticed Bales had blood on him, and he dropped to the ground saying nothing, the official said.

    Bales has maintained his silence on the killings since, the official said, his apparent last words to U.S. personnel being to his roommate.

  7. 7
    pow wow says:

    After taking into account the latest updates to the post (including the information added in the comments), I think I can now state with confidence that, based on the reports I’ve seen that have conveyed translations of the words of Afghan witnesses and survivors – adults and children, males and females – there were almost certainly multiple American soldiers present in both villages – Alkozai and Balandi/Najiban – on the night of the March 11, 2012 Panjwai massacre.

    If true, that means, at minimum, that there are multiple U.S. Army/Special Forces soldiers based at Camp Belamby [or nearby? -May 27th edit] who witnessed the attacks that night, and know who pulled the trigger(s).

    What I can’t confidently state based on the information that I’ve seen to date is whether or not there were multiple killers among those soldiers, although there seems to be strong evidence that there were multiple shooters among them – at least outside the dwellings, if not within (one such shooter may have killed the father of Jan Agha as his stood at his window, for example, with bullets fired from outside that Alkozai dwelling [–village unidentified -May 27th edit]).

    The U.S. military/ISAF/NATO/Pentagon leadership appears to be clinging to (and successfully selling to the American media as the whole truth) the half-truth that one man may have committed the bulk of the murders that night – in order to avoid admitting the appalling fact that the murderer, or murderers, had company, help, and encouragement on his or their depraved and savage rounds that night, and that therefore multiple members of the American military may well be the best eyewitnesses of all, as to who did what, when on March 11. Yet clearly the unconscionable, “buddy”-protecting Special Forces Omertà code of silence (mirrored in the nominally-responsible parties charged with Armed Services oversight in Congress) is being applied in all its power to try to prevent the truth from emerging, responsible actors from being held to account, and justice from being done.

    The Pentagon’s half-truth is not unlike the half-truth conveyed by media outlets – who haven’t bothered with the basics of professional journalism, or who are afraid to cross the U.S. government – when they report that serious “conflict” exists among Panjwai eyewitnesses, about the number of March 11 shooters, because children inside a home saw one soldier in the room, or rooms, while a parent or relative from the same family who went outside the home (or looked through a window or door facing their front yard/courtyard) simultaneously saw multiple soldiers in the courtyard between the home and the public street.

    It seems clear that the Afghan witnesses and survivors of Panjwai are accessible, with some effort – and undoubtedly want their story to be told – as some members of the media have proven even weeks after the killings. Which means that there’s no reason for the continuing lack of clarity and precision about exactly who was killed and wounded, and how, in Alkozai – the village that has gotten short shrift in the media coverage to date. Clarification of family details for the three Alkozai households would help clear away the remaining confusion about which of the households there saw multiple shooters – in or out of the home, or both – and which, if any, saw only one – in or out of the home, or both.

    Another thing that’s clear is that the necessary information can be found in Afghanistan and pinned down and verified, provided only that the investigator(s) is motivated to find and prove the truth. Which has just been masterfully demonstrated in a much less dramatic, decade-old “cold” case in Afghanistan, by a U.S. military investigator for the Chief Defense Counsel in the Pentagon’s Office of Military Commissions. That military investigator, USNR Intelligence Officer Lt. Cmdr. Richard Pandis (assisted by Marine Corps Major Derek A. Poteet) – as explained at length here by Andy Worthington – at the end of a year-long assignment (beginning in late February, 2011) to the Office of Chief Defense Counsel, tore to pieces the decade-old Executive Branch “intelligence report” that has been used to justify the Guantanamo detention of an Afghan named Obaidullah (or Obaydullah) since 2002. Obaidullah was captured in 2002 in his home in a village near Khost city in Khost province by American Special Forces troops acting on an informant’s tip, and has remained in U.S. military custody in Cuba since (Obaidullah’s capture occurred just days after his first child was born). The same “intelligence report” was used to threaten Obaidullah with a Military Commission prosecution for war crimes in 2008 (apparently based mostly on a torture-derived false confession made before Obaidullah arrived at Guantanamo, that he soon recanted), which remained pending until June, 2011, when the military dismissed the charges “without prejudice,” while indicating that the Obaidullah Military Commission case remains an “active” case. [That “active” Military Commission case is the only reason why Obaidullah, unlike the vast majority of (uncharged) Guantanamo prisoners, has had (since 2008), at taxpayer expense, active assistance from assigned U.S. military defense counsel/investigators, which has now generated the 2012 Pandis/Poteet findings.] The same government “intelligence report” was used to sway a credulous and/or authority-saluting federal judge – D.C. District Judge Richard Leonto rule in 2010, in the steeply government-tilted arena that is the Guantanamo habeas corpus process, that said report “unmistakably supports the conclusion that it is more likely than not” that Obaidullah has been legitimately held as a combatant by the U.S. military under the “law of war” since 2002 and therefore that Obaidullah can continue to be held in U.S. military custody for the indefinite future.

    [Due to the fact that mandated law-of-war due process – via Army Regulation 190-8‘s implementation of Third Geneva Convention’s Article 5 requirement that a captive’s “status” be “determined”…by a competent tribunal before default POW protections are stripped from that prisoner, which is necessary to fairly and accurately determine the law-of-war status (civilian, combatant – POW, unprivileged, or otherwise) of prisoners captured in armed conflict – has been violated and abandoned by the Executive Branch throughout Guantanamo’s history without consequence or reprimand from Congress, habeas corpus hearings were belatedly ordered in 2008 by the Supreme Court as a pseudo-remedy for that violation. By 2008, however – as federal trial judges like Richard Leon (enthusiastically joined by the appellate judges of the D.C. Circuit) have repeatedly demonstrated – the pre-existing fact of the years-long Guantanamo incarceration of these foreign prisoners by the U.S. military (without benefit of an initial fair screening of the mostly non-uniformed, non-battlefield-captured foreigners, who were all denied the minimal due process standards demanded by the law of war) turned these men into de facto “enemy combatants” in the eyes of many “independent” judges on the D.C. District & Circuit Court benches. And yet that same small group of federal judges was nominally charged in 2008 by the Supreme Court in Boumediene with independently determining – for the first time – whether the Guantanamo prisoners before them in fact ever were actual armed conflict combatants, pre-capture, who were and are legitimately detained in Cuba for the (now decade-plus) duration of an “armed conflict” under the international law of war. And the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) just crafted by the Armed Services Committees of the House and Senate (secretly) has now endorsed a parallel, inverted, years-after-imprisonment system of “review”absent the participation of “independent” federal judges – of the military’s threshold prisoner status “determinations” (that are still being “determined” in the absence of fair due process by any “competent tribunal”) for our military captives in all off-shore prisons other than Guantanamo. Members of Congress who voted for the 2012 NDAA therefore implicitly blessed the ongoing threshold violation of Article 5-mandated prisoner screening that’s required by the international law of war, as well as – in the absence of such screening – the ongoing, deplorable violation of the mandated default POW treatment of such captives (in addition to revealing their contempt for the independent due process and humane treatment requirements of, and limited federal government powers authorized by, our own domestic Constitution).]

    The government’s Guantanamo track record of Top Secret “intelligence reports” – with their untested “tissue of hearsay, speculation, and gossip” publicly characterized as “evidence” by government actors – reveals that, even in “war crime” prosecutions, the purported “evidence” contained within them is grudgingly shared, if at all with the imprisoned defendant’s lawyers or the defendant himself (never mind with Guantanamo’s mere habeas corpus petitioners) – whose every word, like that of every Guantanamo prisoner, is “presumptively classified– as Lt. Cmdr. Pandis noted in his 2012 investigative report: “…the prosecution has provided no discovery information to the defense.” [That is, none of the government’s “intelligence report”-derived “evidence” has been shared with Obaidullah’s military lawyers since Commission charges were first filed against Afghan Obaidullah in 2008 for the supposed, U.S.-invented “international war crimes” of “Material Support for Terrorism” and “Conspiracy.” (Which some U.S. Special Force “conspirators” in Panjwai on March 11, 2012 better hope that the D.C. Circuit doesn’t decide to uphold as legitimate “universally”-recognized crimes against the international law of war, after the first independent court oral argument is held on May 3rd – 4 days from now – about these supposed 2006 Military Commissions Act-authorized “war crimes,” in the appeal of the MCAct conviction of Salim Hamdan of Yemen.) Pandis therefore had to investigate on behalf of the defense of Obaidullah with one hand tied behind his back, only able to infer what the prosecution’s charges might be based upon from various public clues, including some generated by the 2010 Obaidullah habeas corpus proceedings before Judge Leon and by the habeas corpus proceedings of another Afghan detainee.]

    As indicated in the post, the imprisoned American(s) charged with committing the horrific war crimes in Panjwai on March 11 won’t have their every word “presumptively classified” by the government (as is already evident – see Comment 6), because he or they won’t be shunted into the irregular sideshow of a one-sided, judicially-untested Military Commission prosecution at Guantanamo (a system explicitly designed by Congress in 2006 and 2009 to prosecute “aliens” only). Instead, the American defendant(s) will be tried by court-martial on United States territory in the longstanding, tested, UCMJ-governed military justice system designed to try war crimes allegedly committed by members of both our Armed Forces and by members of enemy Armed Forces we capture. Let’s hope that the assigned military defense lawyers of the accused American(s) (not to mention the assigned prosecutors) do a better job of investigating the Panjwai war crimes in preparation for court-martial than most of the U.S. media have done to date – and at least as good a job as Lt. Cmdr. Richard Pandis just did in Afghanistan on a decade-old case, in preparation for a threatened Military Commission prosecution of an Afghan prisoner held at Guantanamo Bay for ten years, and counting, on the basis of apparently nothing but trumped-up, grossly-inaccurate “intelligence.”

  8. 8
    pow wow says:

    Yalda Hakim, of SBS-TV’s Dateline program, just recorded a 6-minute interview with The Australian news program “Media Bites,” about her trip to Afghanistan to report on the Panjwai Massacre.

    In the April 29 broadcast, Hakim reveals that she arrived in Afghanistan about a week after the massacre (so on about March 18th), and that she was the first [and last?] western journalist to visit the northern village of Alkozai (on March 23rd). [Hakim says that “the investigative team” conducted others to the southern village of Balandi/Najiban.]

    Hakim says that her team was “stopped on many occasions by the U.S. military” from accessing survivors, but that after President Karzai’s intervention, she “spent many hours speaking with the children” (at the military hospital on the ISAF Kandahar Airfield base) before the camera rolled, to make sure that they were comfortable discussing what they’d seen.

    Hakim also reveals more about the difficulty of obtaining her interview with the widow of Mohammad Dawood of from near Balandi/Najiban (aka “Aminea”). Hakim’s male cameraman, Ryan Sheridan, was not permitted into the home to film Massouma, widow of Dawood, so Hakim herself filmed that footage using a small hand-held camera. Hakim says that she had to put her trust in Massouma’s brother-in-law (Dawood’s brother, Baran Akhon, aka “Mullah Barraan”), who helped her to obtain that eyewitness account: Hakim was taken to Akhon’s home near Kandahar city (where Dawood’s widow and children had been relocated) “in the dead of night” to speak with the widow (whose children are seen on at least one of the screen captures in the post).

    Yalda Hakim emphasizes in her interview that the survivors and witnesses wanted their story told, and worked with her (aided by her language skills) to get her the access to survivors that she needed.

  9. 9
    pow wow says:

    What does it say when one of the best, most humanizing English-language media reports about the Panjwai Massacre (SBS-TV’s March 27 Dateline program “Anatomy of a Massacre”) gets attacked, a month after its broadcast, by a “Media Watch” program on another television network ( – which I assume to be, but don’t know to be, a rival Australian TV network), in a critique that appears to be mostly based upon, and was apparently triggered by, a reporter who’s provided some of the most sloppy, inaccurate, and government-narrative-supporting Panjwai coverage – despite being “the first Western journalist” to reach Najiban according to his employer, as quoted in Comment 5 above?

    That critique of’s “Anatomy of a Massacre” program aired Monday evening, Australia time, April 30th. The transcript of the Media Watch segment is here. SBS-TV Dateline Executive Producer Peter Charley’s Friday response to a Media Watch inquiry made in advance of the broadcast is here, and Media Watch says (without linking, which seems to hint at an agenda) that SBS-TV’s full response to the broadcast is available “on our website” – though I haven’t yet found it (unless that closing reference is to the response by Peter Charley that Media Watch linked elsewhere in the transcript).

    Amazingly, apparently thinks we needed – and that should have provided – even more pronouncements from government officials about what they didn’t witness that night in Panjwai, as it critiques a report that finally began to seriously listen to and air the other side – the victims’ side – of a story whose coverage has been absolutely dominated by non-eyewitness statements and unverified assertions by American/ISAF/NATO/Afghan government officials. cites as credible, in its effort to discredit Yalda Hakim’s reporting, “New Zealander” Jon Stephenson, the “Kabul [special] correspondent for the big American newspaper chain McClatchy,” after Stephenson openly revealed – in an interview on a New Zealand television network in which he critiqued, without evident foundation, Hakim’s work – that he seems to have his mind made up (by officialdom, given the lack of hard, corroborating facts in Stephenson’s own, or other, reporting to buttress this conclusion about the participation of multiple soldiers):

    [The SBS-TV Dateline report is] giving a sort of a narrative, or giving momentum and truth to a narrative which is almost certainly false. — McClatchy reporter Jon Stephenson to TVNZ, Media 7, 24/25 April, 2012

    With regard to Mohammad Wazir of Balandi/Najiban, “reporter” Jon Stephenson admitted to ABC’s Media Watch that: “He’s not a witness to what happened. Everything he says is hearsay. I met him but I didn’t interview him because he seemed very traumatised.”

    Of course (as Media Watch ought to have understood), if the report of a surviving adult sister is false, no one was a “witness” to what happened in the Wazir home that night besides the attacker(s), because “no one was spared.” Does that mean that “the first Western” reporter to arrive on the scene should turn his back on the closest family member – who did witness the killing scene’s immediate aftermath…? [Which led Wazir to relate information to real reporters like the fact that he saw no bullet wound in his 2-year-old daughter Palwasha’s lifeless body.]

    With regard to the brother of the murdered Mohammad Dawood of from near Balandi/Najiban – Baran Akhon, aka Mullah Barraan – who took in the children and widow of his brother, and thus was familiar with their eyewitness accounts, Jon Stephenson explained to Media Watch how he airily dismissed that survivor’s information:

    I just discarded most of his testimony, he just didn’t know what happened, he was just saying everything that was said by others. — McClatchy reporter Jon Stephenson in an April 26, 2012 statement to’s Media Watch program

    Does “New Zealander” Jon Stephenson likewise “just discard” the accounts of American/Afghan government officials, with a clear motive to dissemble, who “didn’t know what happened,” whenever they “just say everything that was said by others” over and over again…? Non-eyewitness Baron Akhon “knew” this much, as reporters at the Wall Street Journal who gathered information in Panjwai instead of “discarding” it reported on March 22nd:

    “He had to scrape his brother’s brain and pieces of skull from the floor of their home.”

    The only other media source Media Watch cites to try to call into question Hakim and Dateline’s on-the-ground Panjwai reporting is “Dutch journalist” Bette Dam, who “spent days investigating the massacre.” [I understand that Dam left Kabul to spend one week in Kandahar before writing her March 22-23 report, while Hakim and her crew were reportedly in Afghanistan from March 18th until at least March 23rd. Media Watch reports that Jon Stephenson: “visited the area just two days after the massacre [so March 13th] – well before Yalda Hakim – and spoke to several witnesses.”] Dam’s patronizing, culturally-insensitive report quoting two of the eyewitnesses – one from Alkozai and one from [near] Balandi/Najiban (information that the smug, superficial Media Watch report omits along with the name of every eyewitness mentioned) – and particularly its editorializing tone in a sweeping but unsupported assertion about the survivors, is approvingly described by ABC’s Media Watch as “caution and scepticism.”

    Media Watch reveals how little homework it did about Panjwai by making this flatly-false statement (at least as most listeners would’ve understood it, to apply Media Watch’s standards to itself) midway through its critique; a falsehood undoubtedly caused by the fact that, due to the dreadful overall quality of the Panjwai reporting (courtesy of “reporters” like Stephenson), Media Watch evidently hadn’t figured out that “Aminea” (whose graphic on-camera testimony under a false name was obtained with difficulty by Hakim “in the dead of night” – see the preceding comment) in the SBS-TV Dateline report is the same woman eyewitness (Massouma, widow of Mohammad Dawood of from near Najiban) quoted as seeing ‘other soldiers involved’ in the Bette Dam report that Media Watch approvingly cites:

    That little girl [Noorbinak] was the only eye-witness in the Dateline story who specifically claimed other soldiers were involved. – ABC’s Media Watch, April 30, 2012

    The final appeal-to-authority that Media Watch makes, to try to apply credibility he hasn’t earned for his Panjwai reporting to Jon Stephenson’s criticism of Hakim’s work, is that Stephenson “is a veteran war correspondent who’s frequently been critical of the international forces in Afghanistan,” and that therefore the Media Watch author (apparently Jonathan Holmes) doesn’t “think it was professional jealousy that made him [Stephenson] speak out about the Dateline program on New Zealand television last week.”

    All implications of the American government’s desperate effort to silence doubts about its version of events, including by applying pressure to President Karzai, who’s utterly dependent upon U.S. backing, to get him to change his public statements on the matter, are invisible to the credulous “Media Watchers” – who are obviously not “Government Watchers” – at Tellingly, though I haven’t investigated the facts myself, a comment by Gillian Tebbutton quickly posted on the story-related Media Watch webpage noted this about McClatchy’s “special correspondent” Jon Stephenson:

    Did nobody at Media Watch look into the journalistic history of the New Zealand reporter who called Dateline’s story into doubt?!! Better check, guys. The man whose stories are run by Stars n Stripes magazine has a background worth exploring…

    From my perspective, Media Watch might have had a case, if they’d queried why SBS and Dateline – who are obviously sitting on a lot more valuable Panjwai footage than they’ve aired, and, presumably, on a lot more information gleaned from Hakim’s “many hours” of off-camera conversation with some of the wounded children and other survivors – haven’t released that data to the public in some way, to add to our knowledge about what happened. But such a criticism would require a dedication to the truth about what happened in Panjwai, and some healthy “caution and scepticism” about government pronouncements. Whereas the April 30 Media Watch report (on a program and television network that I know nothing about) seems driven by a fear that the prevailing government “narrative” is in danger of being discredited, and thus is in need of reinforcement from friendly, power-serving media outlets, inconvenient facts be damned.


    May 2 Update:

    I’ve now viewed the full TV New Zealand Media 7 interview of Jon Stephenson, which – I think it’s safe to say – motivated the ABC-TV Media Watch segment, and/or shared with Australia’s ABC an impetus to question the DatelineSBS report that was instigated by Stephenson. Russell Brown aired his interview with Stephenson, with interspersed Afghanistan footage, for 15 minutes on (apparently) April 26. Notably, as the TVNZ broadcast points out, Stephenson himself happens to be in the SBS-TV Dateline report (in footage filmed before SBS-TV arrived), scrambling in a ditch with members of the Afghan Police/Army to evade Taliban gunfire, which killed one soldier, when Afghan investigators were trying to reach the scene in Panjwai on or about March 13th. Also, Brown and Stephenson mention in passing that Stars and Stripes regularly runs McClatchy stories.

    Stephenson definitely seems to have an axe to grind about SBS-TV’s Dateline report, and specifically about it mentioning multiple shooters (an agenda that seems shared by Australia’s ABC-TV, judging by the questions that Xanthe Kleinig asked SBS before the Media Watch program aired). Stephenson’s “problems” with the SBS report seem to be driven by a bit of “veteran war correspondent” terrain-jealousy that pretends to be about ‘accuracy-in-journalism.’ Though he claimed that there are “a lot of factual mistakes” in the SBS program, I didn’t hear Stephenson mention even one such “factual mistake.”

    Stephenson lauds McClatchy’s “speak truth to power” motto, and scoffs at the idea that he’s a “pro-American military stooge,” yet his evident drive to discredit the witness reports of multiple shooters is in conflict with those “truth-to-power” assertions, at least as far as any evidence he’s proffered – to Russell Brown of TVNZ or in his own reporting to date. Stephenson does say – even as he acknowledges that “the situation is completely lost,” and that the Karzai government “does not have the support of the people,” and will fall as soon as the U.S. and NATO/ISAF withdraw – that he (Stephenson) gave (unnamed) “eyewitness” accounts of a single shooter to General Sher Mohammad Karimi (who was put in charge of the Panjwai investigation by President Karzai, and was also interviewed by Hakim), which prompted the General to agree with Stephenson that a single shooter might have been the culprit… Which implies both that the General and Karzai are independent actors freely speaking their own minds, and that what they think and say should trump what the actual eyewitnesses are saying, as best that can be established. [Stephenson and/or his Afghan co-author Ali Safi may well have more detail about the Jan Agha family that would help fill in some of the Alkozai reporting gaps. Rather than detailing such information, however, compare Stephenson’s self-professed ‘truth-to-power’ credentials in the TVNZ interview to his work in the article cited in Comment 5, and in this article published a week earlier, on April 3rd, which was evidently the hoped-for product of Stephenson basically pressuring General Karimi to reword what he said to DatelineSBS about witness testimony. Stephenson seems to feel nothing but contempt for the version(s) of events provided by the Panjwai villagers themselves (even for the two he uses – without bothering to publicly name them – to try to discredit on-the-record accounts reported by others).]

    I have to question Stephenson’s description of his (unspecified) eyewitness accounts – such as whether Stephenson has taken care to distinguish between reports of soldier(s) inside the home and soldier(s) outside in the home’s courtyard – based on his reporting to date, and because he makes a big deal out of the non-eyewitness account of Mohammad Wazir leading Hakim’s broadcast with references to “they” to imply that Hakim’s “ego” led her to push a “false narrative” about multiple shooters by not making it more clear that Wazir was not an eyewitness. Yet the fact that Wazir was away from home that night (and thus survived) is perhaps one of the few hard facts that was widely known by the time of Hakim’s report, and should have limited confusion on that point. More to the point, for the other non-eyewitness Stephenson complains about – Mohammad Dawood’s brother Baran Akhon – Hakim knew well (and Stephenson should have, by late April) that Dawood’s widow is an eyewitness who speaks of multiple soldiers in her courtyard, and though Hakim went to great lengths to interview that widow (“Aminea”), Hakim did not make a big deal about the multiple solder aspect of “Aminea’s” (credible, adult) testimony in the SBS Dateline broadcast. If Stephenson, unlike Media Watch, understands that “Aminea” is Massouma, he didn’t share that information with TVNZ, or explain why Massouma’s eyewitness testimony about multiple soldiers (and helicopters and walkie talkies) is a “false narrative” – that Hakim, however, did not make it a point to push.

    So Yalda Hakim and DatelineSBS are damned by Jon Stephenson if they do (mention the “multiple” soldier testimony, however indirectly) and damned by Jonathan Holmes and Media Watch if they don’t mention it “specifically” enough, in SBS-TV’s first pass at the overall Panjwai story.

    The main message that’s conveyed is that Jon Stephenson, for reasons of his own, and ABC’s Media Watch, for reasons of its own, seem to feel compelled, not to clarify the hopelessly muddled reporting about the Panjwai victims, their names, their relatives, where they’re from, and what the survivors said, but to prevent reports of multiple American shooters in Panjwai from gaining credibility – despite not having done the necessary footwork and reporting to actually disprove those reports, if possible, while they had the chance.

  10. 10
    pow wow says:

    On Friday, May 4, 2012, Peter Charley, Executive Producer of SBS-TV’s Dateline program, sent a formal request to Jonathan Holmes, presenter of ABC-TV’s Media Watch program, for a correction to and an on-air apology for the Media Watch episode “Anatomy of an investigation,” criticizing Dateline, that aired in Australia on the evening of Monday, April 30, 2012. [ABC-TV is apparently Australia’s government-funded national broadcaster.]

    Dateline received the following statements in reply to inquiries it made – as explained in Peter Charley’s email to Jonathan Holmessubsequent to the claims and assertions aired by Media Watch on April 30 about Dateline’s March 27 “Anatomy of a Massacre” report on Panjwai – claims and assertions that were primarily sourced to Jon Stephenson of McClatchy and to a Bette Dam March 22-23 report.

    From Presidential Spokesperson and Director of Communications Aimal Faizi, of the office of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, regarding whether President Karzai’s view that more than one gunman was involved in Panjwai on March 11 was based only on “second-hand” testimony, as Jonathan Holmes of Media Watch pointedly insinuated on April 30 by citing undocumented assertions to that effect by Dam/Stephenson:

    “We confirm that the remarks made by President Karzai in relation to the Panjwai massacre and the possibility of more than one shooter or soldier being involved was based on the evidence and testimony provided by a range of accounts, including the surviving eye-witnesses and their relatives. We stand by any remarks he made to the press during his meeting with the family members of the victims and elders of Panjwai after the massacre and any suggestion that the President was relying on second-hand accounts is false.

    From General Sher Mohammad Karimi (chosen by President Karzai to head the Afghan government’s Panjwai investigation), regarding whether or not his position on the ‘multiple killer’ theory had changed since the interview of Karimi included in the March 27 Dateline broadcast, as Jon Stephenson’s April 3rd article, and subsequent claims to TVNZ and ABC-TV, spun hard to claim:

    I totally reject the notion that I have back-tracked or changed my position. As you are aware, shortly after the massacre I travelled to the area to gather information for the president. Since then, my statements and interviews with the media about the issue have been based on testimony given to me by the surviving eye-witnesses and their relatives. I stand by the interview I gave SBS and reject claims that I have changed my position on this matter.

    Peter Charley and Dateline also requested that Media Watch publish any questions that ABC sent to Stephenson in advance of the April 30 Media Watch broadcast, with any answers received, which – if they exist and are published (as Media Watch published the questions to, and answers from, SBS-TV) – could further illuminate the facts about what happened on March 11 in Panjwai. Dateline also helpfully asked whether Media Watch was given the names of the “several” Panjwai eyewitnesses who Stephenson said he interviewed, and, if so, whether Media Watch will publish the names of those witnesses and their accounts of what they saw.

    SBS and Dateline have apparently obtained at least part of an email that Jon Stephenson sent to TV New Zealand’s Media 7 program, urging TVNZ to investigate Yalda Hakim’s report (which presumably led to the April 24 or 25 TVNZ interview of Stephenson described in the preceding comment).

    An Australian word seems apt here: The ABC Media Watch criticism of the SBS Dateline Panjwai reporting has evidently boomeranged into a serious question about the practices, standards and sources used (seemingly in pursuit of a predetermined end) by ABC-TV’s Media Watch program, at least with regard to its April 30, 2012 segment about the March 27 DatelineSBS report on the March 11 massacre in Panjwai.

  11. 11
    pow wow says:

    On Thursday, May 10, 2012, the Media Watch program of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC TV, Australia’s major public broadcaster) replied by email to the Friday, May 4 request by Australia’s SBS-TV Dateline program (another, smaller public broadcaster) for a correction and on-air apology from Media Watch (as cited in Comment 10).

    Jonathan Holmes, Media Watch presenter, and Lin Buckfield, Media Watch Executive Producer, signed the ABC response (available in PDF form on its website) to the questions asked by SBS-TV Dateline Executive Producer Peter Charley about the April 30 Media Watch broadcast “Anatomy of an investigation” (which criticized the March 27 SBS Dateline program “Anatomy of a Massacre”).

    Holmes and Buckfield, on behalf of Media Watch and ABC-TV, wrote to justify, not to correct or apologize for, their April 30 broadcast. In the process, they engage in absurd word games and contortions to avoid correcting or apologizing for their April 30 story, in a response that’s much longer than the original broadcast itself, yet adds little or nothing to our knowledge of what happened in Panjwai on March 11.

    Astonishingly, though an obvious impetus for the Media Watch criticism of Dateline’s report (that is, Jon Stephenson of McClatchy criticizing Yalda Hakim and DatelineSBS on TVNZ’s April 26 Media7 program) was highlighted on April 30 by Media Watch “because for one journalist to attack [and question] another’s work publicly is rare [and unusual],” that “attacking” journalist (Stephenson) has now belatedly admitted to Media Watch that he interviewed no “eyewitnesses” to the Panjwai Massacre (emphasis added):

    “It is correct that I spoke to several villagers (including Mullah Barraan) and other elders but not to eyewitnesses of the attack. I spoke to people who were present in the village but not to people who had been shot at inside the houses or seen the gunman/gunmen….If I’d spoken to eyewitnesses I would have quoted them as confirming or rejecting the multiple shooter theory.”
    Jon Stephenson of McClatchy, quoted by ABC TV’s Media Watch program on May 10, 2012

    Compare that statement of Stephenson’s to these words spoken by Jonathan Holmes during Media Watch’s April 30 broadcast (emphasis added):

    Jon Stephenson is a New Zealander who is the Kabul correspondent for the big American newspaper chain McClatchy. He visited the area just two days after the massacre – well before Yalda Hakim – and spoke to several witnesses.

    And here, from the Media Watch May 10 response to SBS, is the only ABC explanation for, or attempt to square, the conflict between those two versions of the truth (emphasis added):

    ‘The village’ here [in the May 10 Stephenson account quoted above] means Najiban. Media Watch did not claim that Stephenson spoke to eyewitnesses.

    That assertion by a media watchdog program (“charged with critiquing the work of the media”), on Australia’s major public broadcast network, defies credibility and belief.

    So what does and did “spoke to several witnesses mean, in the private version of the English language that Media Watch’s Jonathan Holmes apparently employs?

    Is ABC/Media Watch seriously claiming that by using the word “witness” instead of the word eyewitness” on April 30th, it somehow conveyed the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, or any sort of passable version of the truth, about the nonwitness “villagers” who “veteran war correspondent” Jon Stephenson interviewed before trying to discredit the groundbreaking reporting of another Australian television program??

    And how would Media Watch have reacted, based on its record to date, if Dateline had labeled Mohammad Wazir and Mullah Barraan/Baran Akhon “witnesses” to the slaughter in Panjwai, only to belatedly claim that the word “witnesses” didn’t mean “eyewitnesses,” but instead surviving “villagers” (while it took umbrage at anyone who dared “argue” that the use of the word “witnesses” was misleading and inaccurate and that they “didn’t like” such misleading reporting – to quote a couple of retorts by Jonathan Holmes to a fellow journalist criticizing Media Watch on Twitter)?

    It’s not hard to imagine, given how Media Watch pompously lectures Dateline in its May 10 response: “…Media Watch considers that the onus is on journalists to distinguish between the testimony of eyewitnesses (those present at the time) and those impacted…”unless, it appears, those journalists happen to be employed by Media Watch.

    Yet according to Jon Stephenson on TVNZ (and, implicitly, to ABC’s Media Watch), it’s Yalda Hakim and Dateline who are “fudging the facts.”

    To put it mildly, this exposes an outrageous double standard at ABC-TV’s Media Watch that ought to disgust its viewers and those concerned with the standards of Australian journalism.

    Yet Media Watch is “satisfied” with its work, and proceeds to engage in further credibility-damaging contortions to avoid a simple acknowledgment that Jon Stephenson apparently misled them (perhaps indirectly, via assertions to TVNZ that Media Watch didn’t bother to verify pre-broadcast) about who he interviewed in Panjwai (emphasis added):

    We are satisfied that the factual claims we attributed to him [Jon Stephenson] in the Media Watch program are true, and Dateline has not challenged them. They amounted only to this: that neither Mohammad Wazir nor Mullah Barraan were present during the massacre; and that Stephenson, for reasons that he stated, had discounted the account of Mullah Barraan.

    As indicated, first McClatchy’s Jon Stephenson on TV New Zealand, and then Australia’s ABC Media Watch criticized Australia’s DatelineSBS because the translated words of one of two grieving Panjwai relatives – who are the first adults heard explaining that their family member(s) were killed, and who are described by SBS without any label or description beyond “villager” in the opening teaser and introduction to the Dateline broadcast – weren’t interrupted by Dateline (as the program opened) to say that one survivor’s translated “they” doesn’t match the government’s unsubstantiated allegation that one U.S. soldier was responsible, and that neither man was present when their family members were killed (even though later in the program this was made explicitly clear for at least one of the men).

    ABC/Media Watch evidently knew going in that they were on shaky ground with their “investigation,” but nevertheless proceeded, using the get-out-of-jail-free card of a carefully-couched “script” that their practiced word-parsers could use to try to dodge responsibility for the innuendo-laden April 30 broadcast (emphasis added):

    We don’t concede that we made errors, partly because we are well aware that these matters are far from cut and dried, and we wrote the script with some caution.

    [DatelineSBS, however, had the obligation to have every one of those “matters” precisely pinpointed, and “cut and dried” from the get-go, in its Panjwai reporting – unlike, apparently, Bette Dam, or Jon Stephenson, or the myriad other reporters who botched and omitted basic details and facts for weeks after the massacre – in the opinion of Dateline’s Media Watch critics.]

    Related this time not so much to the credibility of ABC and Media Watch, but again to that of Jon Stephenson, note what Stephenson himself said – about the reporting that led to his heavily-spun April 3rd article (since rebutted via SBS) – in an interview with Russell Brown on TVNZ’s Media7 program (shortly after confidently asserting that President Karzai relied on “non-eyewitnesses” to the slaughter in making his public statements about multiple shooters), at about the 13:30 mark:

    “I spoke to Karzai’s chief investigator [General Karimi]. . .[]. . .I presented him with testimony from eyewitnesses that said there were only one shooter, and he agreed with me.”
    Jon Stephenson of McClatchy, speaking to Russell Brown of TVNZ’s Media7 on April 26, 2012

    If Media Watch questioned, in writing, Jon Stephenson’s account(s) to them (and/or to TVNZ) before their April 30 broadcast, as it did with SBS, it won’t say so, and provides no link for any written questions to or answers from Stephenson in its May 10 reply to SBS.

    As for this statement from Karzai’s chief investigator General Karimi published by DatelineSBS on May 4:

    “I totally reject the notion that I have back-tracked or changed my position. As you are aware, shortly after the massacre I travelled to the area to gather information for the president. Since then, my statements and interviews with the media about the issue have been based on testimony given to me by the surviving eye-witnesses and their relatives. I stand by the interview I gave SBS [for its March 27 broadcast] and reject claims that I have changed my position on this matter.
    – Chief Afghan Investigator of Panjwai General Sher Mohammad Karimi, quoted by DatelineSBS on May 4, 2012

    ABC Media Watch oh-so-graciously responded as follows on May 10 (emphasis added):

    We concede that General Karimi may not have changed his mind between the Dateline interview and that he gave to Stephenson and to CBS a few days later…

    Media Watch then spent another paragraph and a half speculating about how General Karimi might actually have meant something other than what he twice said to SBS about multiple soldiers – after having explained that Media Watch itself failed to get any pre-broadcast answers from Karimi’s office, despite one brief April 27 conversation and subsequent attempts to communicate (emphasis added):

    Yes, Media Watch did contact General Karimi’s office and spoke to Mr Zahir Azami on Friday 27 April. Because it was a (Moslem) weekend Mr Azami did not want to talk at length and asked us to send an email, which we did that same day, posing detailed questions about whether or not General Karimi had told Dateline that he believed it possible that one soldier might have perpetrated the massacre on his own. We attempted to contact Mr Azami several times over the weekend but his phone was switched off. We did not receive a response to our email before we went to air (and have not received one since), although our email apparently reached its destination.

    Media Watch also engages in further speculation about President Karzai’s sources of information – despite there being no indication that Media Watch attempted to independently contact his office – to try to extricate itself from having relied upon an unsubtantiated assertion in GlobalPost’s March 22-23 report by Bette Dam; quoting from ABC’s May 10 response to SBS (emphasis added):

    ‘JONATHAN HOLMES: But according to Bette Dam, President Karzai has been relying on second-hand accounts too

    (QUOTE)GlobalPost …interviewed the same people in Kandahar before they flew to meet Karzai, and found that either they didn’t see the shooting or that they couldn’t recall key details.”

    Note that the full paragraph in Bette Dam’s March 22-23 article, from which the sentence quoted above was excerpted for Media Watch’s April 30 broadcast, reads this way (emphasis added):

    “Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who summoned several villagers to Kabul to get their side of the story, has ardently supported their claims. GlobalPost, however, interviewed the same people in Kandahar before they flew to meet Karzai, and found that either they didn’t see the shooting or that they couldn’t recall key details.”

    Media Watch claims that it relied solely on that Dam claim in its broadcast, and not on Jon Stephenson’s view of it (though Dam’s account was evidently relied upon by Jon Stephenson in the related remarks he made in the April 26 TVNZ Media7 broadcast). Media Watch then proceeds to explain Jonathan Holmes’s “interpretation” of Dam’s reporting – about two eyewitnesses Dam spoke to who, Media Watch deduces, “couldn’t recall” (unspecified) “key details” – to try to justify using Dam’s unsupported assertion about the survivors Karzai spoke with to call into question Karzai’s multiple-soldier statement(s). In the process, Media Watch – unless it’s now pretending that the quoted segment of the broadcast simply meant to convey that Karzai was listening to “second-hand accounts” in addition to “eyewitness” accounts (which Karzai would logically be doing, at least in the case of the Wazir/Samad family) – is apparently brazenly implying that not being able to “recall [all, most, some?] key details” for a reporter about a midnight killing spree, means that the two referenced eyewitnesses (Habibullah of Alkozai and Massouma, widow of Mohammad Dawood of from near Balandi/Najiban) were therefore “second-hand witnesses” or relaying “second-hand accounts” to President Karzai. [Note that Dam’s article indicates that Massouma did not travel to see Karzai in Kabul (instead her brother-in-law Barraan/Akhon conveyed his “second-hand account” to Karzai on her behalf), but that Habibullah did.] With those contortions completed, Media Watch concludes that the following statement issued by Karzai’s office on May 4 via SBS “does not contradict” the “Holmes-interpreted” Dam assertion about “second-hand accounts” that Media Watch conveyed on April 30:

    We confirm that the remarks made by President Karzai in relation to the Panjwai massacre and the possibility of more than one shooter or soldier being involved was based on the evidence and testimony provided by a range of accounts, including the surviving eye-witnesses and their relatives. We stand by any remarks he made to the press during his meeting with the family members of the victims and elders of Panjwai after the massacre and any suggestion that the President was relying on second-hand accounts is false.”
    Afghan Presidential Spokesperson and Director of Communications Aimal Faizi, quoted by DatelineSBS on May 4, 2012

    Media Watch purports to have no opinion as to whether or not [accounts of more than one attacker being involved] are true” but can’t help immediately adding this (which is an absolutely unfounded assertion, based on the information I’ve been able to collect, and certainly based on anything that ABC and Media Watch have produced; emphasis added):

    [A]lthough the lone gunman theory would seem to explain the known facts, as outlined by Dateline among others, much more convincingly.-Media Watch

    As for the 9-point Media Watch list of “issues which Yalda Hakim’s report would have raised in the mind of any curious viewer, and which were not addressed in her report,” perhaps Australia’s DatelineSBS – if not the vast majority of other media outlets around the world whose English-language Panjwai reporting falls far below the quality of the March 27 Dateline footage – will endeavor to elaborate upon them in future broadcasts. Or, at least, will endeavor to elaborate on issues aside from Media Watch’s specious Issue 1, which implies that one man (Mullah Barraan/Baran Akhon) who was relaying eyewitness accounts of family members to SBS and said so, and another man (Mohammad Wazir) who was merely translated as saying “they” without going into any further detail, were somehow deliberate plants to spread the “multiple soldier” theory. Media Watch persists with this insinuation despite the fact that a key, credible adult eyewitness to multiple soldiers in near Balandi/Najiban (Massouma/”Aminea”) was quoted on camera by SBS saying nothing at all about the multiple soldiers (though Massouma/”Aminea” had spoken of multiple soldiers to Hakim off-camera, as was subsequently revealed in one or more interviews of Hakim about her March 27 report, as noted in Comment 2 above). As for Issue 2, Media Watch evidently thinks that their anonymous sources should trump the SBS-TV on-camera accounts: We have been informed by other sources in Afghanistan that eye-witnesses have come forward who claim that only one gunman was involved, and that several village elders in Panjwai have given forceful interviews to Afghan media denying that more than one American was involved.” Media Watch, of course, carefully omits explaining whether those anonymously-conveyed, alleged eye-witness accounts from unnamed survivors in unnamed villages describe a gunman in the home, or in the courtyard, or both.

    Thus the original April 30 ABC-TV Media Watch “investigation” of DatelineSBS, and Media Watch’s subsequent May 10 response to SBS-TV Dateline’s May 4 complaint (a complaint that only reinforced SBS’s original March 27 reporting), collectively shed practically no light on and added little if anything to our understanding of what happened in Panjwai on March 11 – despite Media Watch having been in contact at some length with, among others, “the first Western journalist” to reach and interview several witnesses villagers in Balandi/Najiban. [One of those witnesses villagers was Mullah Barraan/Baran Akhon (interviewed by Jon Stephenson on March 14, according to Media Watch), but the other two remain unnamed.]

    I hope that, as a result of this ugly attack on their March report (which is obviously seen as a threat by some), SBS-TV and its Dateline program will decide to build on the important work they began in Panjwai, particularly since media giants like the Australian Broadcasting Corporation evidently can’t spare the time to do more than to take turns trying to tear down the valuable work of others.

  12. 12
    pow wow says:

    Well, well…

    Having just been exposed as a critic of the on-location reporting work of others despite having interviewed no Panjwai witnesses himself (a fact that emerged only after the ugly ABC attack on SBS), Jon Stephenson of McClatchy has suddenly managed to contact and interview three eyewitnesses from Alkozai for a new article published May 16, less than a week after that exposure (see Comment 11), and more than two months after the attack itself.

    Better late than never, no matter the author’s motivation.

    The details in the new article describing what those three survivors experienced on March 11 and since (again, in Alkozai, where there has been scant coverage to date) are much more enlightening and humanizing than any earlier Stephenson reporting I’ve seen about the Panjwai attacks. [In more ways than one, because we now have additional eyewitness testimony about “a light…affixed to an assault rifle” to match other eyewitness testimony about ‘lights’ and ‘lights on guns’ from Alkozai and from [in and/or near] Balandi/Najiban (testimony which Stephenson had pointedly disregarded in his April 11th article).]

    Although his name is spelled a little differently, Stephenson’s May 16 article confirms that the boy “Sediqullah,” who was interviewed on-camera by Yalda Hakim in late March, is in fact the son of Mohammad Naim of Alkozai, as I’d surmised in the post (Mohammad Naim was wounded, and, per Stephenson, is in his fifties). Sediqullah (or “Sadiqullah”; he’s the boy who was shot through the ear) is 11 years old, Stephenson reports – and, on top of everything else, had apparently just finished recovering from surgery at the Kandahar Airfield military hospital for injuries caused by shrapnel from a recent U.S. mortar round that landed near his home, when the March 11 attacks took place…

    Stephenson provides the first update we’ve had about the critically-wounded 6-year-old girl Zardana, who has managed to survive her gunshot wound to the head, and is therefore not the 17th (still-unidentified) victim listed by the U.S.

    Stephenson “recently” spoke to Sediqullah (and obtained or took a photo of him), and to Sediqullah’s father Mohammad Naim, and to a neighbor – 14-year-old Rafiullah (no last name, but of the Sayed Jan household per other reports; relationship, if any, to the “Jan Agha” of earlier McClatchy reporting unstated), who was shot in both legs.

    The account of how the March 11 attack unfolded in Alkozai, from Mohammad Naim (for the first time in non-Afghan reporting?) and the two boys (primarily Rafiullah), as reported by Stephenson (emphasis added):

    Posted on Wednesday, May 16, 2012

    By Jon Stephenson | McClatchy Newspapers

    KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — It was early in the morning, perhaps 2 a.m., when gunfire awoke 14-year-old Rafiullah.

    He looked outside the house he’d been sleeping in [apparently the home of his grandfather Sayed Jan, who was away overnight in Kandahar city near the farm where he worked] with his grandmother, an aunt, two cousins and his sister [6-year-old Zardana], and he saw a man with a weapon walk to a shed that housed the family cow and open fire, shooting the animal dead.

    “I told the women inside our room: ‘Let’s run! Let’s get out of here,’” recalled Rafiullah, who like many Afghans goes by only one name. In the next compound, a short distance from the house where Rafiullah had been sleeping, Haji Mohammad Naim awoke to the sound of dogs barking wildly in the street.

    “Then there was shooting, and the dogs stopped barking,” said Naim, who’s in his 50s. Shortly afterward, there was pandemonium at Naim’s front door as Rafiullah and a handful of terrified women and children poured into his yard, seeking shelter. Minutes later, another woman and a young girl emerged from the darkness.

    “She was screaming and crying,” Naim said of the woman. “She said, ‘My husband has been martyred,’” meaning that he’d been killed [possibly probably not (see Comment 13) probably (see Comment 19) a reference to Noorbinak’s father, household unknown Nazar Mohammad].

    Suddenly a silhouette appeared, moving rapidly behind a bright light. Naim thought that U.S. forces were raiding his village, and he expected a squad of soldiers to arrive. Instead, he saw just one man.

    “He got closer, and then he started shooting at me,” Naim said.


    A third survivor, Naim’s 11-year-old son, Sadiqullah, also was interviewed. But he said he’d remained hidden behind a curtain throughout the violence, and it was uncertain what he’d seen.


    Before the shooting ended in Alkozai, Rafiullah’s grandmother [presumably the wife of Sayed Jan] was dead, his sister [6-year-old Zardana, shot in the head] was critically wounded, three other people had been killed [presumably including Noorbinak’s father] and five others were wounded in three adjacent houses. Most of the victims were related by blood or marriage.


    The gunfire seemed to come at him in bursts, perhaps as many as 10 shots altogether, Naim recalled, some fired from just feet away.

    Two struck him in the upper left side of his chest and one ripped skin from the left side of his jaw. Then everything went black.

    The shooter stepped past Naim’s unconscious body and entered his home, confronting Rafiullah and his relatives who’d taken refuge in the main room. With them were around a dozen of Naim’s family members, roused by the gunfire but still half-asleep.


    “He shot my grandmother, he wounded my sister Zardana and wounded me,” Rafiullah said. “He opened fire on Naim’s son, Sadiqullah, and also opened fire on Naim’s daughter. Then the soldier left.”

    Help for the wounded eventually arrived, although Rafiullah – like Naim – had fallen unconscious, and was unable later to say how long it took to get there.

    That description makes it sound as though the 28-year-old farmer “Habibullah” interviewed by Bette Dam in March is also a son (or other close relative) of Mohammad Naim – since Habibullah likewise described to Dam neighbors fleeing to his Alkozai home in the midst of gunfire (Habibullah mapped out his home for Dam as “in the middle” of the three adjacent properties, and Habibullah’s father was wounded). [As indicated in Comment 4, it may or may not also be true that 26-year-old Mohammad Zahir is a son of Mohammad Naim (and the brother of Habibullah). Zahir told Mirwais Kahn and Sebastian Abbot of the Associated Press that he watched his father as he came out of his bedroom be shot in the thigh, by a soldier in a “NATO” uniform who was kneeling inside their home (Zahir was hiding and watching from a nearby room where animals were penned). Those details conflict with the new Stephenson details about how and where Mohammad Naim was shot.]

    If Habibullah is in fact a son of Mohammad Naim who was in the Naim home that night, we may have another conflict within the same family about the number of shooters [as we seem to have in the Dawood family of from near Balandi/Najiban (at least as to the number of soldier(s) seen in the home vs. in the courtyard)] – because Habibullah told Bette Dam in March that he saw “two or three Americans” who were “using lights and firing at” his “father, who was wounded” (though Habibullah “didn’t hear a lot of shooting”).

    It also now appears that three of the four (rather than four of the four?) Alkozai deaths occurred in one family but in their neighbor Mohammad Naim’s home (in the home and room that DatelineSBS filmed in late March?), where they’d fled, rather than in the Sayed Jan home where Rafiullah had been awoken by gunfire and watched a soldier kill their cow. [Update: See Comment 13 for further specifics provided by Stephenson, in a graphic accompanying his article, that pinpoint where the four known killings took place in Alkozai.]

    If Stephenson’s account is accurate, it appears that Sayed Jan (reportedly about Age 50) had grandchildren shot – the 14-year-old boy Rafiullah, and Rafiullah’s 6-year-old sister Zardana, who’s thus a Sayed Jan granddaughter (rather than a niece as reported by the WSJ).

    Because Rafiullah evidently ended up in a hospital bed next to Sediqullah at the Kandahar Airfield base, Rafiullah (rather than one or both Dawood boys from [near] Balandi/Najiban, as I suggest in the post) may be the other, unnamed boy interviewed off-camera by Yalda Hakim, who reported seeing one shooter.

    In terms of evidence collection to date (as of two months after the attacks), note this information from Rafiullah and Mohammad Naim, as reported by Stephenson May 16 (emphasis added):

    Rafiullah told McClatchy that Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, phoned him in the aftermath of the attack and U.S. authorities later interviewed him while he was in the hospital. “Two times they talked to me,” he said.

    A day or two after the massacre, he also spoke to the man Karzai had appointed as his chief investigator into the killings, Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi, the Afghan army chief.

    “To all of them I said the same thing,” Rafiullah said. “I saw only one shooter.”

    Curiously [? (not if you acknowledge that these 2-3 witnesses are hardly the only Panjwai eyewitnesses, nor the only ones Karimi spoke to – pow wow)], Karimi later backed the “multiple attacker” theory, which was also advanced by Karzai, although Karimi subsequently acknowledged in an interview with McClatchy that Rafiullah and Sadiqullah had told him otherwise.

    [NOTE: That sentence apparently explains who the two “eyewitnesses” were whose ‘single shooter’ accounts Stephenson told TVNZ (as quoted in Comment 11) he personally conveyed to General Karimi – although neither eyewitness had yet been interviewed by Stephenson himself (making Stephenson’s information a “third-hand account” – a circumstance that ABC-TV’s Media Watch never questioned, even as it impugned the credibility of Panjwai survivors who relayed “second-hand accounts” on behalf of their own family’s eyewitnesses); having since interviewed the two boys himself, Stephenson is now noting that Sediqullah was behind a curtain during most of the shooting. – pow wow]

    Naim, who said he regained consciousness four days after the attack, also told McClatchy that U.S. investigators had interviewed him in the hospital. But he said their Afghan counterparts hadn’t interviewed him, despite him being one of a handful of adults to survive the shootings.


    The only official contact he’d had since his discharge from the hospital was when he was summoned, still wounded, to Kandahar city and interrogated by an officer from Afghanistan’s much-feared intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security.

    “That man was a bastard,” Naim said. “He accused me of having laid IEDs” – improvised explosive devices, or homemade bombs – “before the massacre to target the American forces.”


    Zardana, Rafiullah’s sister, is the victim most in need of specialized care. Shot in the head, she remains partially paralyzed in the U.S. base hospital. Her uncle, Juma Khan, said U.S. officials had yet to follow through on a pledge to get her more sophisticated care in the United States.

    So in this May 16 Stephenson report, I believe we have the first named adult eyewitness (Mohammad Naim) reporting a lone Panjwai shooter (in Alkozai, evidently in the courtyard of his home, while he retained consciousness), along with a more definitive account about a single shooter, seemingly both in the courtyard(s) and in the room(s) of one-two Alkozai homes, from the teenager Rafiullah (who may have also spoken off-camera with Yalda Hakim in March). [Though Mohammad Zahir may qualify as an earlier adult eyewitness about the number of soldiers/shooters, since, per the AP on March 12, Zahir reported watching one man shoot his father inside their home (village unknown).] We also now have evidence that there were multiple other witnesses present with Rafiullah, from two different households (including women and children who’ve presumably been shielded from the media, but who deserve the opportunity to tell their story too) – whose accounts have mostly yet to be reported by the English-language media.

    Altogether Stephenson’s detailed article is a major and welcome step forward in the Panjwai reporting – given the minimal coverage of Alkozai survivors to date – even though it too touches on multiple “issues which [the May 16 report] would [] raise in the mind of any curious viewer, [but] which were not addressed [by Stephenson].”

    Again, the full (or at least much fuller) story, as told by those who witnessed the March 11 horror first hand, appears to be there for the asking – except that the asking’s simply not being done in any systematic, comprehensive way by and for those outside Afghanistan, if the reporting stops here.

  13. 13
    pow wow says:

    I had wondered why Stephenson’s new May 16 article didn’t reprint the excellent earlier McClatchy map of that area of the Panjwai district (referenced and linked in Comment 5). But now, thanks to this post [link broken in their 9/24 website redesign; alternative link] at The Agonist blog, I see that included with at least some versions of Stephenson’s new article, instead of that map, is an “infographic” containing more names, and other extremely-helpful victim-identifying details for Alkozainot included in the May 16 article itself – which were presumably also just gathered by Stephenson.

    I’m going to carefully compare the different reports about Alkozai victims included in the post above to this new information, and then update this comment with an overview. At first glance I can say that, if “Noorbinak” is one of the girls cited in the new McClatchy information, a different name is used for her by McClatchy than by DatelineSBS.

    May 19 Update:

    The new McClatchy “infographic” [link broken in their 9/24 website redesign; alternative link] accompanying Jon Stephenson’s May 16 article tells a horrifying tale of its own – of a terrified 5-year-old running alone through the night to escape the killer(s) behind her, soon to be joined by a woman who’d just seen her 2-year-old daughter and husband (the 5-year-old’s father by another wife) murdered…

    Stephenson’s latest reporting has opened up a whole new vista on what happened in Alkozai, because the graphic accounts of the survivors in that village have barely been touched on to date in the English-language media. The infographic also has small photographs [link broken in their 9/24 website redesign; alternative link] (the first I’ve seen) of Mohammad Naim and Rafiullah (who were both shot severely enough to lose consciousness that night) along with the Sediqullah photo.

    A new name is included in McClatchy’s May 16 infographic, that no other reporting I’ve seen has mentioned, although he (not “she,” as I’d mistakenly assumed) is listed in Qais Azimy’s list of the dead: Nazar Mohammad.

    Nazar Mohammad’s first wife Shah Babo was living in the Sayed Jan home (Sayed Jan and Shah Babo appear to be brother and sister; Sayed Jan’s reportedly about Age 50) with her two daughters Rubbinah, Age 6, and Naseema, Age 5, along with Rafiullah (who’s reportedly Shah Babo’s great-nephew), Age 14, and his sister Zardana, Age 6 or 7. Those were apparently the only inhabitants of the Sayed Jan home on the night of the attacks.

    Nazar Mohammad‘s home is listed by Stephenson as the third (though really fourth or more, it appears) home attacked in Alkozai that night. On further review I think it in fact likely, and compatible with the known details, that “Habibullah” is another son of Mohammad Naim, and a resident of the Naim home (“in the middle” of the three adjacent Alkozai homes previously mentioned – so, as I now understand it, between Sayed Jan’s and Nazar Mohammad’s).

    Mohammad Naim’s neighbor Nazar Mohammad was the father of the 2-year-old (possibly 3-year-old) girl “Toraki” who was killed in Alkozai, according to Stephenson – a child who’s not on the Azimy victim list included at the foot of the post above, under that name. Yet Toraki does not appear to be the 17th unidentified victim, because the new reporting indicates that “Robeena” (at least if that means “Rubbinah,” Age 6), who is listed as killed on that list, in fact survived (though shot and wounded). [Further confusing matters, Toraki could be listed under a different name (“Payendo”?), and “Robeena” may instead be another name for the grandmother “Nikmarghah,” who is not listed either (under the name given her in Stephenson’s reporting).]

    Without more details, and some family-tree analysis, I still cannot clarify or connect the early Reuters and McClatchy accounts, quoting “20-year-old Jan Agha” (note though that in fact only Reuters gives Jan Agha’s age, so McClatchy may have been quoting the “community elder” Jan Agha rather than the 20-year-old Jan Agha), to the four people killed in Alkozai, as now identified by Jon Stephenson:

    Nikmarghah (either not listed, or aka “Robeena” or “Payendo” on the Qais Azimy ‘official’ Afghan list – see the foot of the post – of those killed?), the grandmother of 14-year-old Rafiullah (and presumably wife of Sayed Jan), who was shot and killed while trying to defend Rafiullah in the “main room” of the home of her neighbor Mohammad Naim, where most of the Sayed Jan household had fled to try to escape the shooter(s). (That “main room” appears to be the Alkozai room with blood stains and bullet holes filmed by DatelineSBS on March 23rd – where neighbors ran to hide, according to the Dateline transcript, and where Sediqullah told Dateline he was pursued by the soldier who shot him.)

    Nazar Mohammad, the brother (or brother-in-law) of Sayed Jan, in his home located on the other side of the Naim/Habibullah home from Sayed Jan’s. [Edited June 14 to add: This photograph posted on Facebook March 11 (and included in a photo-aggregating Daily Mail article March 22, which credits the photo to AFP), with a caption stating that it was taken in Alkozai village, may be is (confirmed by the photographer, Mamoon Durrani) a photograph of the bodies of Nazar Mohammed and his 2- or 3-year-old daughter Toraki (killed in the same home).] [Per Comment 19 below, another Nazar Mohammad daughter (and Sayed Jan niece) is 8-year-old Noorbinak.]

    Toraki (either not listed, or aka “Payendo” or “Robeena” on the Qais Azimy ‘official’ Afghan list of those killed?), the 2-year-old (or 3-year-old) daughter of Nazar Mohammad and his second wife, Maryam, in Nazar Mohammad’s home. [It was Maryam, with the 5-year-old Naseema in tow – after Naseema had fled alone to her father’s home from the Sayed Jan home – who Stephenson describes in his article as running up to the Naim home after her husband had been martyred next door.]

    Khudaydad, or Khudaidad, a 35-year-old cousin of Sayed Jan, who was “later” found dead in a guest house on the Sayed Jan property, according to Stephenson. [And who, I’m now deducing, although no family for Khudaydad is mentioned, may be the father of 8-year-old “Noorbinak” (aka “Shokriya”?) – who would thus be a cousin, a niece, a great-niece, or other relative of the 50-year-old Sayed Jan.]

    At least two early reports in March quoted “Jan Agha”who’s evidently from Alkozai because he reported that Mohammad Naim is his brother-in-law [crossed off and replaced May 27th:] at least one of whom (the eyewitness), if two different men by that name were quoted, may well not be from Alkozai, if “community elder” (and non-eyewitness) “Jan Agha” is a brother-in-law of Mohammad Naim, but the 20-year-old eyewitness “Jan Agha” quoted by Reuters is not a brother-in-law of Mohammad Naim (no mention is made by Reuters of Mohammad Naim or “Alkozai” in the article quoting 20-year-old Jan Agha). Reuters described the 20-year-old Jan Agha as witnessing the death of his father, who was at a window looking into the lane outside to see what was happening, when he was shot in the throat and face, and reporting that 20-year-old Jan Agha’s mother was shot in the eye and face and killed, as was his brother (shot in the head and chest) and his sister. (That accounts for the 4 deaths reported in Alkozai, but doesn’t seem to match the new Stephenson details re ages, relationships and locations of those killed.) Like Rafiullah, 20-year-old Jan Agha reported being awakened by gunfire. Jan Agha also reported that soldier(s) entered his home and waited in silence for a long time, while he lay on the floor pretending to be dead. That description is similar to 26-year-old Mohammad Zahir‘s account of a soldier stealthily searching his home, before wounding his father, reportedly in Alkozai after four people had already been killed there – though the same AP report said that all four of those killed in Alkozai were killed “in one house,” rather than in three separate houses, as we now know from Stephenson’s important May 16 reporting; Zahir’s name is not mentioned in the new Stephenson information. Perhaps Mohammad Zahir (and/or 20-year-old Jan Agha?) is from the “settlement known locally as ‘Ibrahim Khan Houses,'” located closer than near Alkozai? to Camp Belamby?

    No mention is made of the names or whereabouts of the 14-year-old Rafiullah’s parents. Rafiullah is listed by Stephenson as the oldest male in the Sayed Jan home on the night of the attacks (we know from earlier reporting that Sayed Jan was on an overnight trip to Kandahar city [or at his farm – see July 7th post], and we now know that Khudaydad – a 35-year-old male cousin of Sayed Jan’s – was in a guest house on the same property). It seems likely that the gunfire that awoke Rafiullah in the nearby home came from the attack on Khudaydad. (and on his dog, if Khudaydad’s in fact the father of Noorbinak).

    We still have no information that clarifies or locates the early account of “Abdul Hadi,” Age 40 (whose father was killed), as noted in the post, or, as indicated, of the early account of 26-year-old “Mohammad Zahir” (whose father was shot in the thigh).

    “Parween” on the Qais Azimy list appears to be “Parmina,” the wounded daughter of Mohammad Naim (and sister of Sediqullah), per Stephenson’s reporting.

    No one was killed in the Sayed Jan home proper, because they’d all fled – Naseema first to Nazar Mohammad’s, the others to Mohammad Naim’s next door. It was at Naim’s that the grandmother Nikmarghah was killed, and where everyone who’d left the Sayed Jan home was shot and wounded, except the 5-year-old Naseema (who’d fled a third time, to elsewhere in the village) and Naseema’s mother, Shah Babo, who’d also fled again (with Maryam and Naseema).

    Assuming that Noorbinak is from Alkozai, her gunshot wound to the leg is not accounted for by the new Stephenson information (nor is the shooting of the apparently adult “female” – village unknown – who suffered “gunshot wounds to the chest and groin,” according to the March 23rd U.S. military Charge Sheet against Bales).

    The McClatchy infographic lists a total of 19 occupants in the Mohammad Naim home before the Sayed Jan (and Nazar Mohammad) neighbors fled there, but only Mohammad Naim and his son Sediqullah and daughter Parmina are identified by Stephenson. Presumably the 28-year-old farmer Habibullah, who was interviewed by Bette Dam for, was one of those occupants (along with his father Mohammad Naim), but the infographic lists only one “man” as resident there. [Also, the infographic’s numbers for those killed in Balandi/Najiban don’t seem to match the Azimy list.]

    Although there are obviously many details yet to be filled in and clarified regarding the Alkozai attack and victims [see, for example, the Rafiullah entry (Wounded #4) in the casualty box of my July 7th post for an important quote describing 5-6 Alkozai dead, from an audio recording of a March 11th phone call between Rafiullah and President Karzai], the extensive information in the new article and infographic demonstrates, I think, that Jon Stephenson and McClatchy have definitely made an effort here, however belatedly, to “do the asking in a systematic, comprehensive way by and for those outside Afghanistan” regarding Alkozai, which has helpfully expanded upon, and added important details to, the groundbreaking DatelineSBS Alkozai footage from March.

    [May 27 Note: Again, see the Qais Azimy list of Panjwai dead and wounded at the foot of the post – to which I’ve added identifying details – to place and analyze the new McClatchy information about Alkozai victims. Importantly, if Jan Aghanot the non-eyewitness “community elder” Jan Agha (brother-in-law of Mohammad Naim?), but the 20-year-old eyewitness Jan Agha quoted on March 11 by Ahmad Haroon of Reuters (in the same article in which Haroon quotes an important adult Balandi/Najiban eyewitness named Agha Lala) – is not from Alkozai, the four deaths that 20-year-old Jan Agha reported in his family (see the end of Comment 14) also seem difficult to place in either of the two homes in [or near] Balandi/Najiban that we know were attacked. Meaning that 20-year-old Jan Agha’s account to Reuters may indicate that March 11 killings took place in yet a third [or fourth] location, or somewhere besides the homes in Alkozai (3) and Balandi/Najiban/Dawood’s (2) where we now know that people were killed. And if that’s the case, the four deaths reported in the Jan Agha family may in fact not yet be part of the Afghan-sourced Qais Azimy list of (16) dead that Azimy posted in March (although it’s possible that “Payendo” and/or “Robeena” are members of Jan Agha’s family – which would mean instead that 1-2 of the McClatchy/Stephenson-reported Alkozai dead are not on the Azimy list).]

  14. 14
    pow wow says:

    While searching for more information about the names of those killed and wounded – in an effort to determine whether Jon Stephenson’s May 16 McClatchy reporting has identified one or more additional Panjwai victims (or whether the Afghan-sourced list of casualties printed by Qais Azimy of Al Jazeera on March 19 has instead confused some names) – I came across a March 23rd report in the Washington Post that I hadn’t previously seen.

    The Washington Post article introduces another new name into the limited Alkozai reporting, as follows:

    By Richard Leiby and Sayed Salahuddin, Published: March 23


    [Mohammad] Wazir, 35, said he did not believe that a military trial in the United States could ever bring justice.

    “This is not acceptable for us,” Wazir said in an interview Friday [March 23rd] from the Afghan town of Spin Boldak. “We want him to be tried in Afghanistan, in our presence.”

    A farmer and trader, Wazir lived in a mud home in Najeeban, one of the two tiny villages in the Panjwai district of Kandahar province that Bales allegedly targeted during the early morning hours of March 11. […]

    At the time of the attack, Wazir was in Spin Boldak, about 85 miles south, with his 4-year-old son, Habib Shah. Habib is now his only surviving child.

    One other person was killed in Najeeban, according to accounts provided by locals. But that person’s name was not readily available. [This is evidently a reference to Mohammad Dawood of from near Balandi/Najiban.]

    Four others apparently were killed in Alokozo [Alkozai], a neighboring village of 20 homes. Samisami-Ullah, a 30-year-old farmer, identified those victims as his mother, uncle and two cousins. Three others in his family were wounded [Rafiullah (14), Rubbinah (6), and Zardana (7)?], he said, along with three from his neighbors’ families [Naim (50-60) and children Sediqullah (11) and Parmina (age not given)?]. Five of the six wounded were transported to a U.S. military hospital, where three victims remain.

    One girl [Parmina or Rubbinah?], superficially wounded, was treated at a local hospital, villagers said.

    To date [as of March 23rd, the date that Bales was charged], the U.S. military has not contacted any witnesses or those who lost relatives, said Wazir, provincial officials and others who have talked to the massacre victims’ families. “None of them have come to investigate, or to talk to us, or seen the village,” Wazir said angrily. “We want justice.”


    Jan Agha, a farmer who along with [Fazl] Mohammad [deputy head of the Panjwai district council] was one of the first to arrive at the shooting sites and talk to witnesses, said Wazir “lost all of his family [meaning those in the home that night, presumably, since Wazir’s father uncle Abdul Samad also survived because away from home], apart from his son who was with him during the killings.”

    “Samisami-Ullahseems to be described in this reporting as in similar circumstances to “Jan Agha” in the March 11 Reuters account. Except that Samisami-Ullah is said to be 10 years older than Agha and, based on his name and details in this account, seems very likely to be 14-year-old Rafiullah‘s father.

    The WPost article does not indicate where Samisami-Ullah was on the night of the attack, and Stephenson’s May 16 reporting doesn’t mention him, but this sentence from the March 23rd WPost article seems to indicate that he too may have been away from home that night:

    Samisami-Ullah said that wounded relatives told him, “There were 10 soldiers in our neighborhood alone.”

    If he is in fact Rafiullah’s father, then based on the May 16 McClatchy information, Samisami-Ullah could indeed have lost his “mother” (Nikmarghah, wife of Sayed Jan), his “uncle” (Nazar Mohammad, brother of Sayed Jan), and “two cousins” (Nazar Mohammad’s 2-year old daughter Toraki, and, presumably, 35-year-old Khudaydad, cousin nephew of Sayed Jan).

    Also based on Stephenson’s May 16 reporting, Samisami-Ullah apparently has one “wounded relative” son (Rafiullah) who would dispute the cited report of “10 soldiers in our neighborhood alone” (unless Rafiullah means to describe in his accounts only the one shooter he saw that night, rather than the number of “soldiers in [the] neighborhood” there may have been).

    Presumably, though evidence of this is scant, the “Jan Agha” quoted by the Washington Post in this report is the “community elder” Jan Agha who is quoted in other reporting, rather than the 20-year-old who gave this account (which still remains in confusing conflict with details from other Alkozai reporting – indicating that this Jan Agha is from some other village?) to Reuters on March 11:

    [Jan] Agha, 20, said American soldiers who had opened fire in the early hours entered the family home and waited in silence for what seemed an eternity. He lay on the floor, pretending to be dead.

    “The Americans stayed in our house for a while. I was very scared,” he told Reuters.

    “My mother was shot in her eye and her face. She was unrecognizable. My brother was shot in the head and chest and my sister was killed, too.”

    Is this 20-year-old Jan Agha? [Per information provided to me by independent Afghan journalist Mamoon Durrani in early July, who spoke to the photographer about the photo, this young man was one among the crowd of demonstrators at Camp Belamby on March 11, but not a member of an affected family (despite captions to that effect), and therefore is not Jan Agha. (Durrani himself took a similar photo of another grieving young man in the crowd who was not from one of the victimized families.)]

  15. 15
    pow wow says:

    There’s a new report up at, by Gareth Porter and Shah Nouri, that’s based on some commendable digging for the accounts of Panjwai villagers – particularly those with information about the pre-March 11 Mokhoyan roadside bombing detailed by Mirwais Khan of the Associated Press on March 21. That AP report followed a similar March 13 account published by the Spanish news agency, which appears to quote (in Spanish) one of the same on-the-record Mokhoyan eyewitnesses, Haji Muhammad Shah Khan ( on March 13), or Ahmad Shah Khan (AP on March 21). [ also goes on to quote what appear to be two eyewitnesses to the March 11 Panjwai killings: 26-year-old Mohammad Zahir (a known eyewitness), and Haji Muhammad Hassan (who I don’t believe has been referenced in English-language reporting).]

    Porter and Nouri were not able to get more than one of the Mokhoyan villagers (five of them eyewitnesses) to go on the record, but based on interviews with twelve men, including Mohammad Wazir of Balandi/Najiban and a Mokhoyan man who gave only his first name – who’s evidently neither of the two Mokhoyan men who are on record in Mirwais Khan’s March 21 AP article (Ahmad Shah Khan and Naek Mohammad), and who therefore reinforces the AP and information by conveying a similar account – they report as follows in their May 23rd story:

    Muhammad Wazir, who lost all of his family except for a four-year old son in the March 11 massacre in Najiban village, told Truthout in an interview that his brother, Akhter Muhammad, had been working with him in the vineyard that the two brothers had leased from the owner in the village of Mokhoyan near where the roadside bomb had gone off March 8. [It’s not clear whether or not this means to state that both men were in the vineyard on March 8th and heard the bomb go off; thus I’m assuming it means only that in general both men were working that leased Mokhoyan vineyard in February/March. – pow wow]

    Wazir was away from the village in the days following the IED blast and thus escaped the massacre that took the life of his brother, his brother’s family and the rest of his own family except for his four-year-old son who was with him. But he said that another villager had told him that the day after the IED exploded, Akhter Muhammad had shown his identification card to a US soldier at a checkpoint near Camp Belambay and had been [] told by the soldiers that the Americans knew the IED had been planted near his vineyard, according to the account Wazir got from another resident of Najiban.

    Other residents of Najiban told him that the warning had frightened his brother, Wazir said.


    “I really don’t know if his killing and my family killing was the result of the bomb blast or something else,”
    Wazir said in the interview.

    […] On March 21, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby claimed there was “no evidence” of any IED attack in the days prior to the massacre.

    However, several residents of the village of Mokhoyan told Truthout in interviews that a bomb definitely exploded under a US armored vehicle in that village near Camp Belambay late in the afternoon of March 8. Some residents said they had seen the crater in the road caused by the bomb.


    Within as little as an hour or two after the IED exploded, according to the five eyewitnesses, ten to 15 villagers in Mokhoyan were summoned by US and Afghan troops to a meeting with a US soldier, who was described to Truthout by two eyewitnesses as “a commander.” The men said they were summoned to the meeting from the mosque in the village, where they had been offering evening prayers.


    One villager summoned to the center of the village, who would give only his first name, Eshaqzai, told Truthout he was in his garden irrigating his crop when the bomb went off.

    Eshaqzai said he went to the mosque with ten or 15 other residents of the village and, as they finished their prayer, “US soldiers came to take us out of the mosque to where the commander was waiting for us.”

    He said he and the other men had to sit on the ground and listen to a US officer, whom he described as a “commander,” speak to them through an Afghan translator for an hour.


    One resident, who refused to give his name, said, “The American commander threatened to kill the women and children in retaliation if it happened again.”

    [An indirectly-related question that’s belatedly occurred to me: Are the helicopters that are used to patrol and transport troops in this area of Panjwai all, or mostly, based somewhere other than at the Camp Belamby outpost?]

  16. 16
    pow wow says:

    As indicated by the post, and in Comment 13, I’d been laboring under the (apparent) misapprehension that the 20-year-old “Jan Agha” quoted by Reuters on March 11 was likely or certainly from Alkozai because:

    1. I mistakenly assumed that 20-year-old Jan Agha was the brother-in-law of Mohammad Naim of Alkozai, since a March 11 McClatchy story reported that fact about “Jan Agha” (without making clear that Jon Stephenson and Ali Safi of McClatchy were apparently referencing and quoting another Panjwai man named Jan Agha – a non-eyewitness community elder, who was early on the scene of the aftermath of the killings).

    2. The 20-year-old Jan Agha reported 4 deaths in his family, matching the reported number of deaths in Alkozai.

    3. 20-year-old Jan Agha’s name appeared related to that of known Alkozai resident Sayed Jan (who lost four members of his extended family).

    In fact, however, there’s no evidence in that March 11 Reuters story itself – the only one I’ve seen quoting 20-year-old Jan Agha, though this widely-published photo may well be a photo of him (no name ever seems to have been associated with the photo) – that any of my assumptions about the 20-year-old were correct. Again, Reuters reported Jan Agha’s losses on March 11 this way, in its article “Father at window shot in face, Afghan witness says”:

    By Ahmad Haroon

    Sun Mar 11, 2012 2:22pm EDT

    BELANDAI, Afghanistan (Reuters) – Bursts of gunfire shook Jan Agha out of bed in his village in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. His father peeped nervously through a window curtain at the lane outside.

    Suddenly, more shots rang out. His father was hit in the throat and the face. He died instantly.


    Agha, 20, said American soldiers who had opened fire in the early hours entered the family home and waited in silence for what seemed an eternity. He lay on the floor, pretending to be dead.

    “The Americans stayed in our house for a while. I was very scared,” he told Reuters.

    “My mother was shot in her eye and her face. She was unrecognizable. My brother was shot in the head and chest and my sister was killed, too.”

    Agha’s account of multiple American soldiers shooting villagers could not be immediately verified.


    (Writing by [ThomsonReuters Afghanistan/Pakistan Bureau Chief] Michael Georgy, editing by Dean Yates and Michael Roddy)

    That article in fact seems to imply that on March 11 Reuters reporter Ahmad Haroon did not yet know for certain that any village beyond Balandi/Najiban had been attacked – Haroon interviewed from Balandi/Najiban non-eyewitness surviving victim Abdul Samad (father uncle of Mohammad Wazir), and evidently at least one eyewitness (Agha Lala, a Samad/Wazir/Dawood neighbor) who “watched” multiple soldiers “for a while” before being fired upon – or if it had been, what its name was: “[NATO’s ISAF] said the soldier reportedly went to more than one village near his base.”

    So having disabused myself, with the help of Jon Stephenson’s vastly-improved May 16 reporting, of the notion that 20-year-old Jan Agha necessarily, or even likely, resided in Alkozai (or is related to Sayed Jan or Mohammad Naim), and with the important new evidence provided with that May 16 McClatchy story, detailing the identities and circumstances of the 4 people killed in Alkozai that night, I can now draw quite definitive conclusions about the March 19 Qais Azimy list (and matching March 24 Sara Sidner CNN list) of Panjwai dead, that call into serious question the adequacy of that Afghan-sourced (via the Americans, or independently?) accounting of the dead. [Conclusions that I think should be obvious to any media in the world (even if they don’t ‘do math’) still paying attention to the Panjwai Massacre; it strikes me that this information may be an open secret in certain circles in Afghanistan…]

    There is now independently-documented identification provided by media reports for 14 of the murder victims included in the Qais Azimy Al Jazeera March list (as further detailed at the foot of the post above), as follows:

    1. Mohammad Dawood of from near Balandi/Najiban (killed at his home)

    2. Khudaydad of Alkozai (killed at his residence – a guest house owned by Sayed Jan)

    3. Nazar Mohammad of Alkozai (killed at his home)

    4. Shatarina/Shah Tarina of Balandi/Najiban (killed at Samad/Wazir family home)

    5. Zahra of Balandi/Najiban (killed at Samad/Wazir family home)

    6. Nazia of Balandi/Najiban (killed at Samad/Wazir family home)

    7. Masooma of Balandi/Najiban (killed at Samad/Wazir family home)

    8. Farida of Balandi/Najiban (killed at Samad/Wazir family home)

    9. Palwasha of Balandi/Najiban (killed at Samad/Wazir family home)

    10. Nabia of Balandi/Najiban (killed at Samad/Wazir family home)

    11. Esmatullah of Balandi/Najiban (killed at Samad/Wazir family home)

    12. Faizullah of Balandi/Najiban (killed at Samad/Wazir family home)

    13. Essa Mohammad of Balandi/Najiban (killed at Samad/Wazir family home)

    14. Akhtar Mohammad of Balandi/Najiban (killed at Samad/Wazir family home)

    That accounts for the 12 known dead at [or near] Balandi/Najiban, but only accounts for 2 of the 4 known dead at Alkozai. Two additional names are included on the Qais Azimy list of dead, but neither name seems to be cited as among the dead in independent reporting I’ve seen (keeping in mind that reporting about the victims in Alkozai is scarce):

    15. Payendo

    16. Robeena

    On May 16, Jon Stephenson of McClatchy reported [link broken in their 9/24 website redesign; alternative link] these as the names of 2 others known killed March 11 in Alkozai (in addition to Nazar Mohammad and Khudaydad):

    17. Nikmarghah of Alkozai (killed in the home of her neighbor Mohammad Naim)

    18. Toraki of Alkozai (killed at the home of her father Nazar Mohammad)

    I’m going to continue to assume that together those 18 names still total 16 dead, at least until Payendo and Robeena are further identified by new information, or by old information that I haven’t seen, as victims not previously recognized under any name or description.

    Based on independent press reporting, that still leaves unaccounted for in the list of the 16 dead released by Afghan government sources (not to mention the 17th unaccounted-for, still-unnamed victim revealed/charged by the U.S. military on March 23rd):

    19-22. The four murders in the 20-year-old Jan Agha familyvillage and names unknown (Jan Agha’s adult male and adult female parents, as well as a Jan Agha brother and a Jan Agha sister). Reported by Ahmad Haroon of Reuters on March 11.

    23. The murder of the father of 40-year-old Abdul Hadivillage and name unknown. Reported by Taimoor Shah and Graham Bowley of the New York Times on March 11.

    24. The murder of the fathervillage and name unknown – of the 8-year-old girl Noorbinak interviewed on-camera by Yalda Hakim (I’ve surmised that Noorbinak might be the daughter of Khudaydad of Alkozai – despite not knowing whether Khudaydad had a wife or any children). Reported by Australia’s DatelineSBS TV program on March 27. [See Comment 19.]

    [Unaccounted-for wounded who are apparently missing from the Qais Azimy Al Jazeera March 19 list (which I realized, and noted, was a partial list when I wrote the post) include 8-year-old Noorbinak (village unknown of Alkozai; shot in the leg); the father of 26-year-old Mohammad Zahir (village and name unknown; shot in the thigh); and an apparently adult female (village and name unknown; shot in “the chest and groin” according to the March 23rd U.S. military charge sheet; I’ve seen no media reporting about this victim, though note that there’s one otherwise-unidentified person named “Zulheja” on the Azimy list of wounded; “Zulheja” presumably isn’t the 6-year-old Sayed Jan niece “Rubbinah,” also missing from the wounded list, who was shot in her neighbor Mohammad Naim’s home). (Together with the media reports of unaccounted-for dead, this information about the wounded in village(s) unnamed may mean that as many as 10 homes were attacked in Panjwai on March 11, not the 5-6 that we’ve been led to believe.)]

    Thus, unless the March 11 Reuters and March 11 New York Times reports are fictional, or in gross error as to basic facts (name, age, family members killed) – and even if the victims those articles describe are in part represented by the names “Payendo” and “Robeena” on Azimy’s Afghan-sourced March list – I now count at least 21 or 22 Panjwai Massacre dead (possibly from more than two villages), not the 16 or 17 dead that government sources have acknowledged to date.

  17. 17
    pow wow says:

    On June 1, 2012, the U.S. military revised its March 23rd Charge Sheet against Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, as reported yesterday by Gene Johnson (with contributions from Robert Burns) of the Associated Press, among others. [AP’s story is also here – both of these versions include information about steroid use in the military (which is further detailed in this important November, 2010 Seattle Times report), and both note that 5,000 pages of discovery materials were delivered to the Bales defense team on Friday, June 1. Also see here (a Reuters account that includes quotes from Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Gary Dangerfield), here and here.]

    The overall number of premeditated murder counts charged to Bales under the UCMJ for the March 11 Panjwai attacks was dropped by the military in the new June 1 Charge Sheet by one, from 17 to 16 (matching the number of murders on the Afghan-sourced March 19 Qais Azimy Al Jazeera and March 24 Sara Sidner CNN lists), while a new count unrelated to the March 11 attacks – among other new counts charging the burning of bodies on March 11 and alleged months-long steroid and alcohol use – was charged to Bales for allegedly striking with “his hands and knees” an (unnamed) Afghan male in February. All names of victims remain redacted on the new Charge Sheet, and there are still no ages or villages listed for the victims.

    There’s newly-alleged evidence of consciousness of guilt and/or of possible communication with others by Bales (which also reinforces the fact that he has not confessed – see Comment 6 above), in a new charge under Article 134 of the UCMJ for allegedly endeavoring “to impede an investigation in the case of United States v. Staff Sergeant Bales by damaging a laptop computer” (either just before the March 11 attacks began, in the interval(s) between the Alkozai and Balandi/Najiban and Dawood attacks, or somehow after Bales was taken into custody upon his return to Camp Belamby near dawn). Most of the visible changes to pre-existing counts in the new Charge Sheet appear to be related to Alkozai, where there’s been a paucity of reporting.

    The murder count dropped appears to be for an unnamed male victim who was, presumably, thought to be from Alkozai (March 23rd UCMJ Article 118-violation Charge I, Specification 5). That victim had been preceded by an unnamed female victim (March 23rd and June 1st Charge I, Specification 4), also presumably from Alkozai, who is now named (though the name’s redacted, like all the others). I’m guessing that the Charge I, Specification 4 victim is the young Alkozai girl “Toraki” (age 2 or 3; daughter of Nazar Mohammad) who was identified by Jon Stephenson of McClatchy on May 16th (source). One theoretical (if, given the concealed details, too-generous) explanation is that one young victim’s gender was not known to the U.S. military on March 23rd, and thus a count for either possibility was included until that victim’s gender was ascertained.

    March 23rd’s Charge I (Premeditated Murder), Specifications 8-17 now appear (because of additional details about burning that are included in the new Charge Sheet) to list 10 of the 11 Abdul Samad/Mohammad Wazir family victims from Balandi/Najiban, and seem to match June 1st’s Charge I, Specifications 7-16 as to redacted-name length, and gender – except for one victim (likely Esmutallah, a Mohammad Wazir son) whose gender was listed as female 3/23 (Spec. 14) and is now listed as male 6/1 (Spec. 13). The 2-year-old Wazir daughter Palwasha, who her father said had no sign of a bullet wound, still seems to be listed as a shooting victim among Charge I’s Specifications 6-16. One Samad/Wazir family victim is apparently not included among those burned (Specs 7-16). That victim may be Mohammad Wazir’s mother Shah Tarina, whose body presumably was found apart from the others, near the courtyard door, or the home door (which one media account said was made of cloth) – allowing non-eyewitness Wazir to surmise after the fact to DatelineSBS and others that she was the one who answered the door on the night of the attack. [June 11 Update: A March 11 AFP report appears to confirm my supposition that Shah Tarina’s body was located near a door in the Samad/Wazir home; I found the AFP account thanks to belatedly reading this March 11 FDL diary, and, although the article reverses the names of Alkozai and Najeeban, an (Afghan? – yes; specifically, Mamoon Durrani; see my July 7th post) AFP journalist evidently counted the bodies in the Samad/Wazir home in Balandi/Najiban before they were moved: “In one house, I saw 10 people, including women and children killed and burned in one room. Another woman was lying dead at the entrance of the house,” the AFP reporter said from the scene.]

    With regard to what are presumably the four Alkozai dead, names seem to have been altered since March 23rd’s Charge Sheet. Charge I (Premeditated Murder), Specification 1‘s name (possibly Nikmarghah, aka ? Khalida) is now a longer redaction; Specification 2‘s name (possibly Khudaydad) is likewise now a longer redaction; Specification 3‘s name (possibly Nazar Mohammad) is now a significantly shorter redaction; and Specification 4 (possibly Toraki), as indicated, now has a (short) name listed for the first time. [June 1st’s Charge I, Specification 5 (possibly Mohammad Dawood of from near Balandi/Najiban) and Specification 6 (possibly Shah Tarina of Balandi/Najiban) both seem to have slightly lengthened name redactions too.]

    We have more information to go on with regard to the six counts of Attempted Murder under Charge II (violation of UCMJ Article 80), because those counts are repeated under the Assault counts of Charge III (violation of UCMJ Article 128) and there the victims’ wound locations are specified. The count of six victims and the genders included match in both Charge Sheets with regard to the March 11 offenses.

    Therefore I can now make an educated guess that the (obviously-incomplete count of) wounded Panjwai victims listed under Charge II and Charge III, Specifications 1-6 of both Charge Sheets, are, in order:

    1. Mohammad Naim of Alkozai (a “male” whose name has been shortened – the “Haji” dropped? – since 3/23; gunshot wound to the neck);

    2. Zardana of Alkozai (“female child” with a gunshot wound to the head);

    3. Rafiullah of Alkozai, Zardana’s brother (name slightly altered since 3/23?; a “male child” with gunshot wounds to the thigh);

    4. The (apparently adult) “female” noted in Comment 16 – name and village unknown (though possibly “Zulheja,” gender and age and village unknown) – with gunshot wounds to the chest and groin;

    5. Sediqullah of Alkozai, whose gunshot wound to the ear was shown on-camera by DatelineSBS 3/27 (a “male child” whose name is now longer than it was 3/23, who was listed then only as being shot “at”; on June 1 this victim is listed as receiving a gunshot wound to the head);

    6. A “female child”name and village unknown – who was unnamed 3/23 and now has a short (redacted) name, but who is still listed only as being shot “at”wound location evidently unknown; a victim who could be Parmina/Parween (sister of 11-year-old Sediqullah), 6-year-old Rubbinah, 8-year-old Noorbinak (leg wound shown on-camera by DatelineSBS 3/27), “Zulheja” (age and gender unknown), or someone else (all of whom, and more, are reported to have been wounded).

    [Edited June 16 to add: Note how Lt. Col. Jimmie E. Cummings Jr. described the dead and wounded who were included in the counts of the first March 23rd Charge Sheet, in a telephone interview for a March 26 Rod Nordland New York Times article (in which Cummings is also quoted as saying that no wounded had died): “At this time, the evidence available to the prosecution team indicates 17 victims of premeditated murder and 6 victims of assault and attempted premeditated murder…” He continued: “That breaks down to 4 males, 4 females and 9 children were murdered. One male, one woman and 4 children were wounded.”]

    In sum: See Comment 16; aside from the removal of the still-unexplained 16 vs. 17 conflict of the last two months in the public lists of the Panjwai dead, none of the discrepancies spelled out in that comment are addressed or resolved by June 1st’s revised Charge Sheet, or by the coverage of it by the Associated Press and others.

    (For more Panjwai analysis, see Marcy Wheeler’s blog, where she’ll likely be writing again soon on this subject.)


    June 16 Update:

    The phrase deployed to Afghanistan for the first time in December 2011,” and variations thereof, seems to be ubiquitous in media reports about Staff Sergeant Bales. Yet in two official statements issued by the military – late on March 16 by the Army, confirming the arrival of Bales at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas [“on an Army cargo flight from Kuwait late Friday,” according to USA Today, after he was flown out of Afghanistan on March 14 to a military detention facility in Kuwait], and on March 23 by ISAF, announcing the first charges against Bales – no mention is made of the date that Bales deployed to Afghanistan.

    However, in media reports citing to a (second?) March 16 U.S. Army statement that I couldn’t find (perhaps some information was included only in email releases to the media?), Bales is said, by USA Today 3/18, to have been in the fourth month of his fourth combat tour and first in Afghanistanand, by the DOD’s American Forces Press Service 3/17, to have enlisted two months after 9/11 on Nov. 8, 2001. . .with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state.”

    The same March 17 DOD American Forces Press Service “news article” by Cheryl Pellerin, this time apparently drawing on the service record of Bales (and perhaps also on an Army “release” quoting Army Col. James Hutton, chief of media relations), states that “He was deployed three times to Iraq — in 2003 for 12 months, in 2006 for 15 months and in 2009 for 10 months. He was deployed to Afghanistan on Dec. 1.

    And this March 12 Associated Press report cites to a Congressional source for its version of the story:

    The soldier, who is married with two children, served three tours in Iraq. He began his first deployment to Afghanistan in December, according to a Congressional source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

    […] The soldier’s unit was attached on Feb. 1 to Camp Belambai, home to a village stability force, the Congressional source said.

    Likewise, states this April 11 McClatchy map graphic (sourcing unknown): Feb. 1, 2012 [Bales] is assigned to team involved in village stability operation at small outpost in Panwai district, Kandahar province.”

    I’ve included that information in order to highlight an apparent, and apparently-unreported, conflict with certain dates listed in the new June 1 charges against Bales alleging alcohol and steroid use:

    Charge V, Specification 1 (re steroid use): “In that Staff Sergeant (E-6) Robert Bales, U.S. Army, did, at or near Belambay, Afghanistan, between on or about 1 January 2012 and on or about 11 March 2012, wrongfully use stanozolol a Schedule III controlled substance while receiving special pay under 37 U.S.C. Section 310.”

    Charge V, Specification 2 (re steroid use): “In that Staff Sergeant (E-6) Robert Bales, U.S. Army, did, at or near Belambay, Afghanistan, between on or about 1 February 2012 and on or about 11 March 2012, wrongfully possess some amount of stanozolol a Schedule III controlled substance while receiving special pay under 37 U.S.C. Section 310.”

    Charge VI Specification (re alcohol use): “In that Staff Sergeant (E-6) Robert Bales, U.S. Army, did, at or near Belambay, Afghanistan, between on or about 1 November 2011 and on or about 10 March 2012, on divers occasions, violate a lawful general order, to wit: paragraph 2c, CENTCOM General Order Number 1B, dated 13 March 2006, by wrongfully consuming alcoholic beverages within the country of Afghanistan.”

    By my reading, the dates and details in those new charges indicate that SSG Bales was in Afghanistan a month earlier than the media (including the Department of Defense press service) have widely reported and the anonymous Congressional source claimed, and was already stationed at Camp Belamby (or at another nearby Panjwai district base) by early November, 2011.

    [July 29 Update: According to a July 11 AP tweet, and article (and to a Reuters article), the UCMJ-mandated Article 32 hearing for SSG Bales is scheduled to begin on September 17, 2012. ((Edited September 2 to add: Word has it (confirmed, September 6th, by “I Corps spokesman Gary Dangerfield”) that the start of the Article 32 hearing for Staff Sergeant Bales, which on July 11 Army Lieutenant Colonel Gary Dangerfield told the media was scheduled to convene on September 17th, has now been indefinitely postponed…))]

    [October 2 Update: Word further has it that the UCMJ-mandated Article 32 hearing for SSG Bales, indefinitely postponed about a month ago by the Convening Authority (Col. Kenneth Kamper?) – at the request of the government/Army, or the Bales defense team, or both – has apparently now been rescheduled for sometime in early November, 2012. An exhaustive September 19 Motion to Dismiss in the Bradley Manning court martial explains at length and in detail (see, for example, Paragraphs 89, 90 & 94) that – to protect his Constitutional right to a speedy trial – “supporting reasons” must be proffered for each requested delay in bringing SSG Bales to arraignment and trial (both of which can only follow the Article 32 hearing, unless the hearing is waived by the accused), and any approval of “reasonable” delay for “good cause” should, “when practicable,” be put into writing, by the Convening Authority (pre-referral of charges, as the Bales case now stands) or by the Military Judge (post-referral of charges). In addition to their Sixth Amendment-protected right to a speedy trial, an arrested or confined person subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice is required (under Article 10, UCMJ, 10 U.S.C. Section 810) to be brought to trial with “reasonable diligence” by the government – no “foot-dragging” is permitted.
    Edited October 9 to add: Apparently the Convening Authority approved another month-long hearing delay by October 5th, which has again postponed the Bales Article 32 hearing, this time until the first 10 days of December (possibly to avoid a conflict with a planned October-November Haj pilgrimage to Mecca by some of the Panjwai witnesses or relatives).]

    [October 13 Correction/Update: Either I was mistaken about a postponement into early December, or further changes to the schedule have taken place since 10/9 or 10/5, because Reuters is now reporting (as of late Friday, 10/12) that the Article 32 hearing is still scheduled for early November. Specifically, on October 12 Army Lieutenant Colonel Gary Dangerfield told Laura L. Myers of Reuters that the Bales hearing is scheduled to begin on November 5, and continue for two weeks at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state, under the direction of Investigating Officer Colonel Lee Deneke, an Army reservist. (See also this Seattle Times report from October 11th.)]

    [The Army Article 32 hearing for SSG Bales took place at Joint Base Lewis-McChord from November 5-13, 2012, as scheduled. I closely followed (and tweeted at length) the coverage of the hearing on Twitter and elsewhere in the media. New information gleaned as a result of the hearing has been added to my July post.]

  18. 18
    pow wow says:

    From the newspaper article excerpted in Comment 12:

    Rafiullah [Age 14] has largely recovered from the physical wounds. [Mohammad] Naim [Age 50-60] said he needed ongoing medical treatment for his own wounds. He walks with difficulty and has lost strength in his hands. “I can hardly pick up this plastic bag,” he said.

    Zardana, Rafiullah’s [7-year-old] sister, is the victim most in need of specialized care. Shot in the head, she remains partially paralyzed in the U.S. base hospital [at Kandahar Airfield]. Her uncle, Juma Khan, said U.S. officials had yet to follow through on a pledge to get her more sophisticated care in the United States.

    “If the Americans can’t organize these simple things, they should return Zardana to us so the world can see her condition,” he said. “If America can’t help us, we will ask the international community for help.”
    – Jon Stephenson of McClatchy, May 16, 2012

    Possibly in connection with that important May 16 McClatchy reporting by Jon Stephenson, this tweeted request was issued late on Wednesday, June 13, by Ahmad Shuja:

    ATTN San Diego Afghans: A victim of the Panjwayi massacre is in the US for treatment. Pls DM me if u can help w Pashto & transportation.
    @AhmadShuja, 8:04 PM – 13 Jun 12 via TweetDeck

    [Edited July 14 to add: At least one American reporter tried to find out more about this unidentified victim and/or her relatives (7-year-old Zardana of Alkozai – granddaughter of Sayed Jan – or, possibly, the unknown/unidentified adult female listed on the U.S. Charge Sheets with “gunshot wounds to the chest and groin”), but was apparently rebuffed. No Pentagon press release having been issued, total silence about this development has been maintained, for a full month to date, by and in the U.S. media.]

  19. 19
    pow wow says:

    I’ve now written a second Panjwai post, containing some major updates to this one; both the new post and the major updates were made possible by the invaluable assistance of independent Afghan journalist Mamoon Durrani, who was among the first reporters and photographers to arrive at the scene of the massacre on March 11:

    Did DOD+NYT+Reuters+AP Fabricate Panjwai Victims, Or Were 21 Killed?

    These are among the facts that Mamoon knew, or (very) generously went out of his way to find out for me from surviving family members over the past week:

    1. Haji Abdul Samad is the uncle, not the father, of Mohammad Wazir of Najiban (confirmed by Wazir, via Durrani).

    2. Noorbinak‘s village is apparently Alkozai, and her father (Kaka) Nazar Mohammad.

    3. The Mohammad Dawood home is not in Balandi/Najiban village proper, but is instead an isolated home in a cluster of about 3 homes and a mosque located across fields and former vineyards from, and about one-half kilometer east/northeast of, Najiban.

    4. There are two entrances/exits to Camp Belamby – one facing north (toward Alkozai), and one facing south (toward Najiban and Dawood’s).

    I will soon be updating/editing this post and comments to reflect those facts, and others. [July 14 Update: The referenced updates/edits to post and comments are now completed.]

  1. 20
    Robert Bales Allegedly Started Doing Steroids January 1, Accused of Assault on Afghan in February | emptywheel says:

    […] powwow did her own version of a list of victims back in April here (read comments for updates). I’m going to try to match up my list to […]

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