March 28th, 2012
06:06 PM ET

Grieving survivors describe Afghan massacre

Reporter Yalda Hakim of Australia’s SBS network has become the first western journalist to visit the villages where a U.S. soldier allegedly killed 17 people.

In a remarkable report she talks with some of the survivors and some Afghan guards on duty at the military camp from where Staff Sgt. Robert Bales left on his alleged killing spree.

The video at the top of this story is Hakim’s account of her journey to the remote villages near Kandahar and what she was told.

Bales is now held at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas and has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.

The events of that March night in a rural area some 20 kilometers from Kandahar are being investigated by both the U.S. military and Afghan authorities.

But much remains unknown.

Many Afghans, including some of the survivors that night, believe more than one U.S. soldier was present in the two villages where the killings took place. Others speak of seeing a single American soldier leaving Camp Belambai that night.

The U.S. military says there is no evidence that more than one man was involved in the shootings. Bales has not entered a plea.

The killings made headlines around the world.

Here CNN correspondent Sara Sidner explains her thoughts on the massacre victims.

She argued that part of the problem was the risk of traveling around Afghanistan and the lack of communications in remote villages.

But she said it was her impression as a journalist, reader and citizen that victims of tragedies in developing nations are not given anywhere near the same coverage or attention as victims in developed nations by the international press.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • U.S. Army • War • World
soundoff (331 Responses)
  1. veronica

    @Red-White-And-Sorrow........What a wonderful message 🙂 I agree with all that you said. It gives me so much sorrow when I hear about this or anything terrible happening to anyone regardless of what religion/culture they may be from. It will probably surprise you to know that I am a Canadian muslim (convert but I am of English and German background) but I have so much admiration for how American soldiers have tried to help in these countries (I am not going to get into the debate as to whether they should be there or not). I believe that your hearts are in the right place but it hurts me whenever I hear of another soldier giving the ultimate sacrifice. I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate your efforts in Afganistan and Iraq among others. I just wish that the Afgans would realize that this does not represent all Americans and you are trying to help them but they are so uneducated 😦 I wish we would learn from this too but I keep hearing of atrocities all over the world and have my doubts. Anyway, this is the first opportunity I have had to thank an American soldier so wanted to take the chance :).....so thank you for doing what you do 🙂

    March 29, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  2. stopthis

    Someone is taking this fight to the next level. The families involved were picked for some reason. What was that? Were they id'd as Taliban? Were the adult males not home at 3AM and since they could not be captured or killed did someone decide to send them a message that their families were also targets. This is reintroducing the idea of a free fire zone as was used in Vietnam. Although in that case the firing could not be from the ground but had to be from a helicopter.
    Living amongst the enemy to win their hearts and minds also leads to this type of situation when it is apparent that their minds are made up and not in the pro-american way.
    The whole idea of training and supporting a faux-American army to exert US will on the Afghans is insane. We should GTFOOA now!

    March 29, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  3. banasy©

    Yeah, ok
    Hindu hindu hindu hindu hindu hindu hindu hindu hindu.
    Shhhhh.

    March 29, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  4. badbadbadbadbad

    Lol at all the tools that say something about the base that was attacked and why the familes of them haven't been interviewed. LMFAO so bad at how they get angry about Soldiers being killed but yet they can't see the real problem when it comes to civilians.... go jump off a bridge tool

    March 29, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  5. badbadbadbadbad

    Also I strongly urge that our military tell the whole truth, because what is being said about there being more than 1 is going to be believed much more than our only being 1 soldier story. So those that were involved should be quickly and swiftly arrested and prosecuted as well before more people start demanding justice. This is seriously ridiculous, men join our military to protect the weak yet they have been preying on them. Our military is being viewed worse and worse by the day, we cant allow this to jeapordize the many soldiers spread across the seas. So please US Government, do the right thing and release the whole truth.

    March 29, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Just Man

    According to international laws this murderer should be trialed in the country where crime was committed. The questions are why is he being trialed in USA? Why USA is violating international laws?

    March 29, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • sebby66

      Because the justice system and trials in Afghanistan are not fair, non existent and he would be stoned or worse right away. I know he is guilty but want to hear him give explanations before going to jail for the rest of his life or the death penalty.

      March 29, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mathias

      SOFA, look it up. Stop stating false information as fact.

      March 29, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Yago

      The US Soldier will be trail in the US so the US Armed Forces have complete control of the cover up.
      The US has violate International Laws since the Military coup of the Iranian Democratic Government in 1956.

      March 29, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Name*rltballer

      I agree. The true victims will never get a fair trial here. He failed to seek help if he was depressed or whatever. He deserves a needle in his arm.

      March 29, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Beer Summit

      SOFA...Look it up.

      March 29, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • US guy

      Because we are the law. And how did you dear to say what you said.

      March 29, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  7. civilizationsaver

    this reporter Yalda Hakim been proved that desent of taliban. that meanings she works for taliban,and f............. with talibans

    March 29, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Gavi

    IMO, there are 2 reasons why this happened:
    1. anyone can go to an army in US. My belief is that people who are not successful (the ones who can't get into college, or can't find job, or , just don't want to work, or for fun) go to US army. Note that Army isn't obligatory in US. Among them, there is a huge number of people who are not mentally healthy. I guess, the person who did this was a mentally weak person.
    2. It was set up. For so many years (especially during presidential campaigns) US has been promising to get their troops out of Afghanistan. But they don't want to do it at all, because war is a driver of economy, it brings billions and billions of $$ to controlling families, who, apparently, don't care about simple mortals. Moreover, they need to be present there because it is close to Russia (US need to set up their bases near their enemies). If there is a misunderstanding between Afghanistan and US, US needs to stay there longer, because it is building democracy, it is getting rid of Talibans, while acting worse that Talibans.

    Either way, people who did this need to be punished.

    March 29, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • TD

      Wow that's an ignorant view of every military member. How dare you say if your in the military there in some way makes you weak or dumb. How about the fact that the military sent this guy to war 4 times. That's 4 years of living in a hostile environment where daily you fear for your life and miss your kids. He also sustained a major brain injury. Any "strong" person would be substantially weakened by this. The real question is why did our government send a man back out to war after so much sacrifice. How much can a person take before they break? This is not an excuse but understanding.
      We should all be questioning how our government doesn't care about us. How they use us as their pawns and only become aware of there mere citizens if they make them look bad. Do you think they actually do anything about suicide or PTSD? They just want it to stop showing up in the news so they don't look bad. They don't want to actually help their military members. Next Obama plans to use the military for guinea pigs for his healthcare plan. How's that for our president and government. Within 5 yrs they want to raise medical premiums by 300%. Do you think they care about anyone?

      March 29, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  9. rameez

    innocent until proven guilty wish you guys would apply the same law to nationals of other countries as well or is it a right reserved exclusively for americans ?For all the rest of us it is missile strike unless proven innocent before that missile hits. After watching the video about what this soldiers and possibly the rest of his squad mates did only you would be arrogant enough to defend him .I hope he burns in hell with all of his supporters

    March 29, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  10. rameez

    I love how so many people here can call killing innocent women and children as not terrorism seems this term is reserved exclusively for Muslims . So help understand according to many people here if a Muslim plans to kill scores of innocent women and children he is a terrorist and should be killed in a drone strike without any trial or proof just because he allegedly was planning some thing but sgt bales is not a terrorist because he follows a different ideology even though he didn't just plan he killed innocent women and children ? For me killing innocent women and chidlren is terrorism and terrorists should be treated the same without distinction to race or religion or ideology but i guess my opinion doesn't matter since freedom of speech and right to a free trial are human rights reserved only for Americans.!

    March 29, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Glh1

      Rameez you're absolutely right. This was an act of terrorism. And we should be ashamed.

      March 29, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Michael

    The Invasion and occupation of Afghanistan was already underway long before towers fell and that incident was a convient excuse with bin Ladins philosophical and religous led group already fighting US Foreign Intervetionist policys Ladin was the perfect Emanuel Goldstein. Lets talk about a real massacer, how does some 4500 Afghans who had surrenderd to US Special Forces led Northen Front forces. Placed inside large Russian and US supplied large semi cargo type vans who were then shot to death or allowed to die by heat and dehydration. then buried in a series of pitr to hide the crime? While this atrocity was reported in many of worlds press and even within UN, not a word in US media We do not have soldiers we have warriors. And then we have those who choose to support them by joining the nice and clean millitary occupations. Sorry folks but every person who defends their nation from llegal and kills a member of the invading is not an insurgent but has a Right to do so.

    March 29, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  12. slobro

    An Army sergeant and father of three from Rhode Island who gave his life to save an Afghan child from being run over by a 16-ton armored fighting vehicle is being flown back to the U.S. and will be buried Monday.

    Sgt. Dennis Weichel, 29, died in Afghanistan last week after he dashed into the path of an armored fighting vehicle to scoop up the little girl, who had darted back into the roadway to pick up shell casings, according to the Army. Weichel, a Rhode Island National Guardsman, was riding in the convoy in Laghman Province in eastern Afghanistan when he jumped out to save the girl, who was unhurt.

    March 29, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  13. sayitisntso01

    Here is another story you wont read on CNN but is cover story on Foxnews.
    Army sergeant who gave life to save Afghan child being flown home for burial.

    CNN will report the killing of these 17 Afghans to no end but when a soldier dies to save the life of a little girl not one word about that. Thanks CNN for living up to your biased side of things.

    March 29, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Glh1

      Um, yeah. It was on CNN all day yesterday and this morning, but nice try.

      March 29, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  14. LB Colorado

    War is HELL and being anywhere near that place you are going to loose it or be killed. There is no light there, only darkness, it has been that way long before 911. Unfortunately, they housed the taliban and we thought it was just to defend our country. Well we have been there over 10 years and nothing has changed due to corruption on both sides of spectrum, so you really can't blame this soldier – it is the politics involved seen and unseen. I haven't seen what this soldier has seen and just sitting here – anger just rises up, so seeing all of this first hand, I am sure he just lost it. It is what it is. I am sorry for the children, but you can't fix this mess there with this one soldier.

    March 29, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  15. LB Colorado

    Military investigating Military – REALLY.

    March 29, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
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