September 2, 2004 in Nation/World

Reservist charged in deaths of 2 Afghans

Robert Burns Associated Press
 

WASHINGTON – The Army charged a 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, Army officials said Wednesday.

Two officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the investigation is not complete and that it is uncertain how many soldiers eventually will face criminal charges. The deaths, on 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. He was 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.”

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, based in Cincinnati.

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.

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

The sheet 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 Dilawar’s death. Boland is accused of dereliction of duty for 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.

Army officials told the Associated Press on 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.

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