June 17, 2010 in Nation/World

Five soldiers charged with Afghan deaths

Civilian deaths occurred in Kandahar Province
Nick Perry Seattle Times

Officials at Joint Base Lewis-McChord said Pvt. 1st Class Andrew Holmes, 19, of Boise, Spc. Michael Wagnon II, 29, of Las Vegas, and Spc. Adam Winfield, 21, of Cape Coral, Fla., were charged Tuesday with one count each of premeditated murder. Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, 25, of Billings, and Spc. Jeremy Morlock, 22, of Wasilla, Alaska, each were charged earlier this month with three counts of premeditated murder and one count of assault.

SEATTLE – Five soldiers accused of murdering three Afghan civilians earlier this year allegedly threw grenades at them and shot them with rifles, according to charging papers released Wednesday by Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Two of the soldiers also are accused of beating a fellow soldier who might have been an informant, while a third is accused of trying to impede the investigation by asking a colleague to erase a hard drive that contained evidence of the crimes.

The slayings in January, February and May come as a blow to the credibility of the U.S. military as it seeks to win over local populations in advance of a major campaign in the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar.

The five soldiers all come from the same unit at Lewis-McChord – the 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment of the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

All the killings took place at or near Forward Operating Base Ramrod in Kandahar Province, according to charging papers. No motives are offered for the killings.

Two soldiers are accused of being involved in all of the killings while three soldiers are each accused of being involved in one killing. No more soldiers are expected to face charges in the case, said Lt. Col. Tamara Parker, a spokeswoman at Lewis-McChord.

At some point in January, according to the charging papers, Spc. Jeremy Morlock, Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs and Pfc. Andrew Holmes threw a grenade and fired at Afghan Gul Mudin, killing him.

On February 22, Morlock, Gibbs and Spc. Michael Wagnon fired upon and killed Marach Agha, charging papers say. And then on May 2, Morlock, Gibbs and Spc. Adam Winfield threw a grenade and fired upon Mullah Adahdad, killing him, according to the charges.

Three days after the final killing, Morlock and Gibbs are accused of hitting, kicking and spitting at a fellow soldier. That same month, Wagnon allegedly tried to have the hard drive erased.

Four of the soldiers have now been returned from Afghanistan and are being held in pretrial confinement at Lewis-McChord. The fifth soldier, Gibbs, was charged last week in Kuwait and is being transported back to the Washington base.

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