‘He just started shooting,’ Afghan survivor testifies in US military court

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From Chuck Conder, CNN

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Washington (CNN) – It was the middle of the night in southern Afghanistan’s Panjwai district when Haji Naim says he was awakened by the sound of barking dogs and gunshots.

Moments later, a man clothed in U.S. military fatigues and a T-shirt burst through the door of Naim’s home and opened fire, hitting him in the neck, Naim testified early Saturday at a hearing for an Army soldier accused in a mass killing of Afghan civilians.

“I said ‘What are you doing? What are you doing?’ Naim told the court at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Tacoma, Washington, during a live satellite uplink from a base in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

“He didn’t say anything …He just started shooting.”

Naim and his two sons were among the survivors of the March 11, 2012, rampage that military prosecutors allege was carried out by Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales.

Naim’s testimony came amid the fifth day of an evidentiary hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence to support the military’s case against Bales, who faces 16 counts of premeditated murder and six counts of attempted murder in the predawn attack.

The outcome of the Article 32 hearing will determine whether Bales, 39, is court-martialed, and whether he will face the death penalty.

Bales has not entered a plea in the case, though his attorneys have said Bales suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and suffered a traumatic brain injury during a prior deployment to Iraq.

Naim’s son, 13-year-old Sadiquallah, testified he was awakened by a neighbor screaming that an American was killing people.

The teen said he ran to a storeroom, hiding behind the curtain that covered the

Staff Sergeant Robert Bales

entrance way. Still, he said, he suffered a wound when he was grazed in the head by a bullet.

“I saw him once,” Sadiquallah said of the shooter. That was when he entered the compound and “shot up the family.”

Sadiquallah’s older brother testified the man was wearing military camouflage pants and a T-shirt, and was carrying a rifle with a flashlight.

Neither Naim nor his sons identified Bales as the shooter.

During testimony late Friday, a relative of some of the victims testified about the discovery of the bodies.

Khamal Wazir told the court he found his cousin’s mother on the floor, her body beside the door of the family compound.

“She was shot in the head,” he said.

Inside, he found the bodies of other relatives — each apparently shot in the head — piled on top of each other and partially burned.

The fire was out when he arrived, though smoke lingered in the house.

“Yes, the bodies were burned,” he told the court.

Two Afghan guards at Camp Belambay, a small U.S. outpost near the two villages, laid out a possible timetable for the attacks.

One guard told the court he encountered a man who was walking onto the base about 1:30 a.m. and told him to stop. He said the man approached and said, ‘How are you?” in Pashtun and went inside the base.

Another guard said he saw an American man leaving the base around 2:30 a.m. The man also greeted him in Pashtun, asking “How are you?”

Neither guard was able to identify Bales as the shooter.

CNN’s Chelsea J. Carter contributed to this report.