Thursday, September 2, 2004

Soldier from local unit
charged in Afghan deaths

By Robert Burns
The Associated Press and
The Cincinnati Enquirer

WASHINGTON - The Army charged a Roselawn-based military police reservist with assault and dereliction of duty in connection with the deaths of two Afghans in U.S. military control in Afghanistan, and investigators have implicated about two dozen other soldiers, officials said Wednesday.

Criminal charges were filed Aug. 23 by Army Forces Command at Fort McPherson, Ga., against Sgt. James P. Boland of the Army Reserve's 377th Military Policy Company.

Two officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the investigation is not complete, and it is uncertain exactly how many soldiers eventually will face criminal charges. The deaths, Dec. 3 and Dec. 10, 2002, were ruled homicides by U.S. military medical examiners.

In the first case, Mullah Habibullah, believed to be about 28, died of "pulmonary embolism due to blunt force injuries to the legs," according to doctors, while in detention at Bagram, Afghanistan.

One week later, an Afghan identified only as Dilawar, 22, died in U.S. custody at Bagram. Doctors blamed his death on "blunt force injuries to lower extremities complicating coronary artery disease."

Further information about Boland was not available late Wednesday. No one answered the phone at the 377th Military Police Company at the Morrow U.S. Reserve Center in Roselawn-Bond Hill. Telephone messages left with public affairs personnel at the 88th Regional Readiness Command at Fort Snelling, Minn., were not returned.

The Boland charge sheet released Wednesday lists one count of dereliction of duty in connection with the death of Habibullah.

It says Boland, who was a guard at the Bagram prison, was derelict "in that he negligently, willfully or through culpable inefficiency" failed to take corrective action against another soldier who struck Habibullah while he was restrained.

The name of the other soldier was blacked out for privacy reasons; his rank was specialist.

The other charges are in connection with the Dilawar death. Boland is accused of dereliction of duty for allegedly failing to seek medical treatment for the prisoner, "who was visibly in need of medical care and later died," according to the charge sheet issued by Army Forces Command.

Boland also is charged with maltreating Dilawar "by shackling him in a standing position with hands suspended above shoulder level for a prolonged period of time." An alternate charge of assault is listed, citing the same description of a prolonged shackling of Dilawar.

Others who are expected to face charges are from the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, from Fort Bragg, N.C. Some members of the 519th went from Afghanistan to Iraq in 2003 and are among those accused by Army investigators of abusing Iraqi detainees in the fall of 2003.

It falls to Gen. Dan K. McNeill, commander of Army Forces Command, to designate a military officer to act on the charges recommended against those who have been implicated.

By coincidence, McNeill was commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan at the time of the alleged homicides, and he initiated an internal review of conditions at the Bagram detention facility.

An initial Army criminal investigation, the results of which were briefed to McNeill while he was still in charge in Afghanistan, did not recommend any criminal charges, according to a senior Army official who discussed the matter on condition of anonymity. For reasons that have not been made public, the probe was reopened after McNeill left his post in Afghanistan.

The Washington Post reported in its Wednesday editions that the Army is expected to charge 26 soldiers, to include a charge of negligent homicide. Army officials told the Associated Press Wednesday that about two dozen soldiers have been implicated in the investigation by the Army's Criminal Investigation Division but the exact number who will face charges is unclear.

Christopher Grey, spokesman for the Army's Criminal Investigation Command in Ft. Belvoir, Va., would not say whether any soldiers have been implicated in the probe or what units are under investigation.

"We do have an investigation ongoing and are nearing completion of that investigation," Grey said Wednesday.

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