01-24-08, 08:48 AM
Army commander offers testimony <br />
Colonel says he was unaware of Marines’ March 4 mission <br />
JENNIFER HLAD <br />
January 24, 2008 - 8:20AM <br />
DAILY NEWS STAFF <br />
Marine Special Operations Fox Company...
01-25-08, 08:15 AM
Afghan physicians describe casualties
January 25, 2008 - 12:01AM
DAILY NEWS STAFF
About 30 people with various types of injuries - including some that looked like bullet wounds - checked into nearby hospitals after a suicide bomb explosion and subsequent gunfire on a busy Afghanistan highway in March, two Afghan doctors testified Thursday.
The testimony, given in a live video teleconference from Jalalabad, Afghanistan, was part of the ongoing court of inquiry into the actions of Marine Special Operations Fox Company on March 4, 2007, in Afghanistan's Nangahar province.
Marines say their convoy was attacked by a vehicle-borne suicide bomb and follow-up gunfire. They only returned fire on enemies they positively identified, they said. But Afghan witnesses and Army officials have accused the Marines of firing indiscriminately and killing numerous innocent civilians.
Two men are named in the inquiry, which is a fact-finding process, not a criminal proceeding. Capt. Vincent Noble was the platoon commander at the time of the attack, and Maj. Fred Galvin was the company commander.
Thursday, Dr. Fazel Rahim Shagiwal spoke to the inquiry through an interpreter in Jalalabad. A Marine interpreter sat in the Camp Lejeune courtroom to ensure the translation was correct.
Shagiwal is a surgeon and manager at Jalalabad public health hospital, a large regional hospital about 28 miles away from the blast site. The morning of March 4, he heard there may be more than 20 patients coming in at once, so he created an emergency plan, he testified.
Instead, the hospital got about 16 people, two or three at a time, Shagiwal said. More patients arrived the next day, also claiming to have been injured in the incident, he said.
Shagiwal's job was to prioritize the patients and organize which doctors would do what, he said, though he did operate on two patients - including one young man whose family members testified Tuesday.
That young man, Nasurtullah, had originally gone to Ghani Khail hospital, a smaller facility roughly six miles from the blast site. He was transferred to Jalalabad for further care and eventually sent to Bagram because his injuries were so severe, Shagiwal and another doctor said.
Many of the Jalalabad hospital's roughly 16 patients had what appeared to be bullet wounds, Shagiwal said - stressing that he does not specialize in identifying bullet injuries.
He said his two patients appeared to be wounded by bullets, because of the entrance and exit areas, and did not appear to be injured by the blast because he did not find any shrapnel.
The hospital generally sees 10 war-related injuries a day during the month of March, Shagiwal said.
Dr. Aman Gul Amani, the director of Ghani Khail hospital, was next to testify. He said the hospital saw 23 injured people on March 4 but sent 11 of those to Jalalabad hospital because his facility could not treat them.
Amani said he gave first aid to 11 of the patients and examined four. Some of the patients appeared to have been cut by glass, others had head trauma and some had what may have been bullet wounds, he said.
Witnesses also brought three dead bodies to the hospital, Amani said, and told officials the people were killed in "the firing."
Amani also testified the hospital had no record of Haji Liwani Qumandan visiting the hospital that day. Qumandan also testified Tuesday, claiming he was shot twice in the back by Marines.
Col. Greg Sturdevant, commanding officer of 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, followed the doctors on the stand.
The Marines of MSOC-F trained with the 26th MEU and traveled with them on the same ships on the way to Afghanistan.
Sturdevant told the panel that Galvin was under a lot of pressure as the commander of the first Marine special operations company to deploy, but he handled the pressure well.
Still, the men had discussed some of the challenges Galvin faced, specifically what they viewed as a lack of support personnel for the unit.
MSOC-F "had a number of radios, but didn't have technicians to fix the radios. They had vehicles, but no wrench-turners to fix those vehicles," Sturdevant said.
Galvin made repeated pleas for more support and eventually asked Sturdevant whether he could spare some support Marines to go with MSOC-F when they left the ship. Unfortunately, Sturdevant said, he could not help.
Sturdevant also said Galvin worked with the MEU and the ship's captain, planning and coordinating the company's onboard training so it would not conflict with other activities.
Galvin is "very straightforward, very honest," Sturdevant said. "He doesn't beat around the bush. ... If had a concern, he told you."
The court of inquiry continues with more testimony today.
Contact Jennifer Hlad at email@example.com or 353-1171, ext. 8467. To comment on this story, visit www.jdnews.com.