Yalda Hakim of Australia’s SBS network is the first western journalist to visit the villages of Kandahar, Afghanistan, where 17 people were killed in a massacre this month.
Survivors of the attack allege that there was not simply one “rogue soldier”, US Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the story the mainstream media is peddling; instead, the survivors, some of whom are children, claim there were more soldiers present that bloody morning
“Do you know where your father is?” a voice off-screen asks.
“He died”, replies the small Afghan child.
“How did he die?”
The interview goes forward, as we witness an Afghan man sitting calmly as he relays to Hakim that “…they came into my room and they killed my family. My two sons, my nephew and my mother…” The US soldiers had entered the home of an Afghan farmer, Mohammad Wazir, during the killing spree. 11 of his family members had been asleep inside. “They attacked during the night. They knocked on the door. When they knocked on the door my elderly mother came out and she was shot and killed at the door.” After killing his family they brought all the bodies to one room, taking with them linen and blankets from the cupboard; they laid the linen and blankets atop the bodies and set them alight.
Another Afghan man:
“When they screamed, the small children were very scared, especially the six-month-old. When this child screamed the American put his pistol in the child’s mouth.”
Hakim drives to the base near the villages where the massacres took place but is told that the area has been laced with mines by the Taliban and is too dangerous for her to visit; the next day an Afghan police team helps her across the booby-trapped roads and fields.
She nears the location where the killings took place, 20 kilometers southwest of Kandahar where investigators believe the lone gunman left armed with an automatic rifle and a pistol; he walked to Alkozai, entered two houses and opened fire on unsuspecting, sleeping Afghan civilians. Hakim enters one of the homes where blood splatter is still clearly evident on the walls.
Hakim asks her guides to explain what transpired in the home to which one man replies, “they ran from over there [one corner of the house] and came to hide here. Then he came and shot them here. Some were shot the yard and some here [in the house].”
The guides point to bullet holes still in the wall as they continue describing the ghastly slaying.
Not only were the Afghan civilians, 9 of them children, shot to death ,their bodies were set on fire afterwards. The Chief Investigator General Karimi says that he assumes that Staff Sgt. Robert Bales was “helped by somebody.” Village elders claim that there were several soldiers and helicopters were present in order to assist Staff Sgt. Bales.
Hakim later attempts to interview the survivors of the massacre but is blocked by US military, told that children were among those who survived and the Americans treating them did not “want them traumatized” by her questions; it was only after personal intervention by Afghanistan’s President Karzai that she was permitted to interview the survivors.
A young Afghan boy points to his stitched ear, softly relaying to Hakim that a bullet had traveled through the cartilage of his ear, after which he began to discuss the incident in its entirety:
“When my father came out, he shot my father. Then he entered our room. We ran from that room to the other room. He came and shot us in that room, and then he left.”
The small Afghan child shown in the earlier frame, 8 year-old Noorbinak, reappears, still wrapped in a scarf, nervously relaying her account of what a US soldier did to her and her family as her eyes dart below the gazes of those around her:
“He was shooting. He shot my father’s dog first, and then he shot my father in the foot. Then he dragged my mother by the hair. My mother was screaming and he held a gun to her. And my father said “leave her alone” and then [the soldier] shot him.” The soldier later turns the gun on her, shooting her in the leg.
“One entered the room”, she continues. “And the others were standing in the yard, holding lights.” She too claims that there was more than one US soldier present.
A brother of the one of the victims also seen in an earlier frame corroborates the claim, that Staff Sgt. Robert Bales was not the only soldier present. “The Americans left the room. My brother’s children say they saw him in the yard with many Americans with lights on their heads. And they had lights on the ends of their guns as well. They don’t know if there were 15 or 20, or however many there were.”
Reporter Hakim speaks to one last survivor during her journey, given the pseudonym Amina, who is surrounded by her six children. She describes having seen so much blood, to such an extent that it was as if “three sheep had been slaughtered.” She describes having to drag one victim back into her home, his brain falling into hand. Amina goes on to express her understandable feelings of enmity towards the soldiers:
“I had no feeling other than… if I could lay my hands on them…I’d rip them apart with my bare hands.”