Probe finds excess force in Afghanistan incident
A U.S. military commander has determined that Marines accused of killing civilians after a suicide bombing in Afghanistan last month used excessive force, and he has referred the case for possible criminal inquiry, a senior Defense Department official said.
The initial investigation of the March 4 incident, in which as many as a dozen Afghan civilians are reported to have died, concluded that the troops’ response was “out of proportion to the threat that was immediately there,” the senior Defense official said Wednesday.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation’s results have not been released.
The findings have been forwarded to Central Command, which has responsibility for U.S. military operations in the Middle East and Central Asia.
The case has also been referred to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service for a broader criminal inquiry, the official said.
Another official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said the initial military investigation concluded that there was a “reasonable suspicion” that the Marines violated the rules for the use of deadly force, and that crimes, possibly including homicide, may have been committed after a convoy was struck by a car bomb.
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service got the case within the last week but has not begun interviewing the Marines, this official said.
The official also said the number of Marines involved in the case is “in the 20s.”
In the incident in Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, an explosives-rigged minivan crashed into a convoy of six military vehicles that U.S. officials said also came under gunfire.
Injured Afghans said the Americans then fired on civilian cars and pedestrians as they sped away.
Reports of the number of dead and wounded varied.
U.S. military officials said militants shot at Marines and may have caused some of the civilian casualties.
The Afghan government has done its own investigation and the results are pending. President Hamid Karzai condemned the incident.