I’m working on a theory about the Panwjai killings: that there was just one gunman at the village of Alkozai, but multiple solders were present at Najiban. At this point, it’s just a wildarsed guess, but it is consistent with what at least some of the witnesses say, and it might explain conflicting stories about timing and the purported helicopter search for Sergeant Robert Bales.
While there remain inconsistencies on the number dead, for this post I will assume the dead consist of Mohammed Wazir’s 11 family members, with Ismatullah counted as female, Mohammad Dawood, Syed Jaan’s 4 family members, and one additional girl, probably killed at Alkozai.
While reading this post, it may be useful to open the sources listed at the bottom.
Alkozai is the village north of the base. Nalda Hakim suggests the shooting happened here first; WSJ suggests it was second. Given that Sergeant Bales reportedly returned to the base between villages and his roommate didn’t believe he had been shooting Afghans, Najiban would have had to have been second, given that moving victims as happened there would have–and apparently did–leave his clothing bloodied.
In Alkozai, multiple reports describe people running into a central (and larger) house in the village, that of Habibullah’s father, where at least Syed Jaan’s family members were killed. See Global Post for a diagram. In addition to Jaan’s family members, most of the wounded appear to come from Alkozai, as well. Both Hakim’s footage–showing bullets splattered all over the room–and WSJ’s report suggest the shooting was less accurate here than in Najiban.
Of the witnesses at Alkozai, Habibullah says there were 2-3 soldiers (though not in the range of 12-20 like reports from Najiban), though he admits he doesn’t remember well. Jan Agha, in his confusing or inaccurate Reuters report, says there were multiple soldiers; in his apparently more accurate–based on the number of dead and wounded–interview with McClatchy, he appears to say it was a single soldier.
Najiban is the village south of–and further–from the base. Mohammad Dawood–the husband of Massouma and the brother of Mullah Baran (who in addition to his comments to the WSJ is one of the two men in Hakim’s report)–and Mohammed Wazir’s 11 family members died in Najiban. WSJ states that Dawood was killed first, then Wazir’s family.
Massouma and “Aminea” (which Hakim says is not her real name) may be the same person, because Baran describes scraping up his brother’s brain in WSJ, which is consistent with Aminea’s description of capturing her husband’s brain in her hands, and because Aminea has the same number of children as Dawood, 6 (though Global Post says 7; it’s not clear which of Aminea’s very young children would be the 7-year old son of Massouma described in the Global Post, though biologically, barring twins, one of them must be that old). That said, you would think Baran would have accompanied Hakim for the interview, as he guarded his sister-in-law from journalists elsewhere. In any case, Massouma refers to one soldier doing the killing, but a number more searching her compound. Her and Dawood’s children have also repeatedly said there were multiple soldiers with lights standing outside of their home.
That, added to the circumstances surrounding the killings in Wazir’s home–both the layout over four rooms and the attempt to burn the victims–suggest the involvement of multiple solders in Najiban.
Agha Lala, who hid in his Najiban home and then checked his neighbors after the soldiers left, spoke of multiple soldiers. He also said the attack started around 2:00, a time when both US sources and the Afghan guards at the base would have placed Bales at the base.
In addition to the statements of the guards–who describe a single soldier leaving, then returning, then leaving again by himself (though none attest that it was Bales or that the departing soldier was the same man), the statements of two children support the government’s claim there was just one killer. Both the young boy Hakim filmed (Sediqullah, according to the transcript) and another that doesn’t appear on film but whom she references in her follow-up spoke of just one soldier doing the shooting.
But then there are the comments of Noorbinak, the 8-year old girl Hakim films. While Noorbinak speaks of just one soldier shooting her father, she said “others were standing in the yard holding lights.” Now, that sounds precisely like what Dawood and Massouma’s kids said–that there were a bunch of soldiers in the yard with lights. And at least given what we know about victims, it seems likely her father was Dawood. That’s because there were no survivors from Wazir’s household. so she can’t be from that family and therefore none of his dead relatives could be Noorbinak’s deceased father. And while Syed Jaan notes that two of his nephews and a niece were wounded (presumably the children of his brother who died), the niece’s head wound was so bad she was not expected to survive. Noorbinak was wounded only in the knee. That is, the imperfect information we have about the dead seems to rule out Jaan’s brother being Noorbinak’s now deceased father, which seems to leave just Dawood as a deceased adult male who could be Noorbinak’s father. Therefore her report of men with lights in the courtyard repeats the same thing her siblings have said. (Note, this makes it less likely that Massouma and Aminea are the same woman.)
The wounded in the charge sheet
While trying to discern anything from a redacted charge sheet is fraught with problems, and there are more problems matching descriptions of the wounded with the charge sheet than the dead. Nevertheless, the charge sheet may also support the possibility that Noorbinak is from Najiban.