Ex-soldier Kills 26 Civilians in Texas; US Troops Kill 14 Civilians in Afghanistan
November 7, 2017
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Shashank Bengali and Sultan Faizy / Los Angeles Times & Jim Vetruno, Will Weissert and Paul J. Weber / Associated Press
A gunman who killed 26 people – including 14 children -- at a small-town Texas church was a former US soldier with a history of domestic violence. Meanwhile, a US-led coalition in Afghanistan has been accused of launching an airstrike that killed at least 14 civilians -- including four children -- in the northern province of Kunduz. Do we lament one crime and ignore the other?
US Airstrikes Kill at Least 14 Civilians in North Afghanistan
Provincial MP Confirms Substantial Death Toll
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(November 5, 2017) -- The US has promised an investigation into a Sunday flurry of airstrikes against Northern Afghanistan's Kunduz Province. The strikes killed at least 14 civilians, including four children, and wounded 13 others.
The US confirmed military operations were ongoing in the area, as part of a joint operation with the Afghan military. They declined to offer specifics on the operation, but said they would do so when it's appropriate.
Provincial officials confirmed the civilian deaths, though the Afghan military insisted no civilians were killed, claiming 57 Taliban were killed in the operation, and that no one else suffered any casualties.
Residents in the district say that the ground operation had been ongoing for three days. They also confirmed they'd been recovering the bodies of civilians slain in the airstrikes, and that the toll might be higher as not all had been recovered from the debris.
Residents Say Airstrikes Kill
At Least 14 Civilians in Northern Afghanistan
Shashank Bengali and Sultan Faizy / Los Angeles Times
KABUL (November 5, 2017) -- The US-led coalition in Afghanistan said Sunday that it was investigating reports that at least 14 civilians were killed in airstrikes in the northern province of Kunduz, where US and Afghan forces have been waging a heavy battle against Taliban militants.
Local officials said the victims included four children. They said 13 other civilians were wounded Saturday in the province's Chardara district.
Mawlawi Khosh Mohammad, a member of the Kunduz provincial council, said the civilians were victims of "foreign airstrikes." US warplanes carry out the vast majority of airstrikes in Afghanistan.
Lt. Jason Tross, a spokesman for the US-led NATO coalition, confirmed that Afghan and international forces conducted a joint operation in Kunduz on Saturday but said he did not have additional information.
The coalition "takes all allegations of civilian casualties and the responsibility of human life seriously, and is assessing the facts surrounding this incident," Tross said. "We will release more information as appropriate."
The operation involved Afghan army commandos, the country's most active ground force, whose leadership issued a statement saying that 57 Taliban fighters were killed, including the insurgent group's "shadow governor" in Chardara.
But the commandos denied the residents' reports, saying, "Neither the commandos nor the civilians have suffered casualties."
Kunduz has been the scene of intense clashes between coalition forces and Taliban militants since 2015, when the insurgents briefly overran the provincial capital, Afghanistan's fifth-largest city. As US forces have become heavily involved in the fighting, they have also been implicated in civilian casualties.
In November 2016, a joint operation by US soldiers and Afghan special forces in Kunduz resulted in the deaths of 33 civilians, according to a US military investigation.
A year earlier, a US airstrike mistakenly hit a Doctors Without Borders humanitarian hospital in Kunduz, killing at least 42 people.
Residents of Kunduz said the operation in Chardara had been going on for three days, but the extent of the damage in the village of Gharaw Qishlaq was not yet clear because government forces were restricting entry to the area.
Azizullah Erkin, a 28-year-old agriculture student, said by phone that the airstrikes took place after Afghan forces launched an attack in Gharaw Qishlaq. Residents had gone to retrieve bodies of those killed in the clashes when the airstrikes occurred, killing more than a dozen people, he said.
"We still have some bodies that have not been taken out of the debris," Erkin said.
Texas Church Gunman Sent Hostile Text Messages before Attack
Jim Vetruno, Will Weissert and Paul J. Weber / Associated Press
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (November 6, 2017) -- The gunman who killed 26 people at a small-town Texas church had a history of domestic violence and sent threatening text messages to his mother-in-law, a member of First Baptist, before the attack in which he fired at least 450 rounds at helpless worshippers, authorities said Monday.
A day after the deadliest mass shooting in state history, the military acknowledged that it did not submit the shooter's criminal history to the FBI, as required by the Pentagon. If his past offenses had been properly shared, they would have prevented him from buying a gun. . . .
Once the shooting started, there was probably "no way" for congregants to escape, Wilson County Sheriff Joe D. Tackitt Jr. said.
The gunman, dressed in black tactical gear, fired an assault rifle as he walked down the center aisle during worship services. He turned around and continued shooting on his way out of the building, Tackitt said. About 20 other people were wounded. Ten of them were still hospitalized Monday in critical condition.
Investigators collected hundreds of shell casings from the scene, along with at least 15 empty magazines that held 30 rounds each.
Kelley lived in New Braunfels, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) north of the church, authorities said. Investigators were reviewing social media posts he made in the days before the attack, including one that appeared to show an AR-15 semi-automatic weapon.
. . . .
Investigators also revealed that sheriff's deputies had responded to a domestic violence call in 2014 at Devin Patrick Kelley's home involving a girlfriend who became his second wife. Later that year, he was formally ousted from the Air Force for a 2012 assault on his ex-wife in which he choked her and struck her son hard enough to fracture his skull.
In the tiny town of Sutherland Springs, population 400, grieving townspeople were reeling from their losses. The dead ranged from 18 months to 77 years old and included multiple members of some families.
"Our church was not comprised of members or parishioners. We were a very close family," said Sherri Pomeroy, the wife of the church pastor, who was out of town with her husband when the attack happened. "Now most of our church family is gone."
The couple's 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle Pomeroy, was among those killed.
Kelley's mother-in-law sometimes attended services there, but the sheriff said she was not at church on Sunday.
The massacre appeared to stem from a domestic situation and was not racially or religiously motivated, Texas Department of Public Safety Regional Director Freeman Martin said. He did not elaborate.
. . . .
While in the military, Kelley served in logistics readiness at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico from 2010 until his 2014 discharge, Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said.
He was discharged for the assault involving his previous wife and her child and had served a year of confinement after a court-martial. Under Pentagon rules, information about convictions of military personnel for crimes such as assault should be submitted to the FBI's Criminal Justice Investigation Services Division.
Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said the service is launching a review of its handling of the case and taking a comprehensive look at its databases to ensure other cases have been reported correctly.
A few months before he received the bad-conduct discharge, sheriff's deputies went to his home to check out the domestic violence complaint involving him and his then-girlfriend. People in the house said there was no problem, and no arrests were made. Kelley married the girlfriend two months later.
Also in 2014, he was charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty in Colorado after a neighbor reported him for beating a dog. Kelley initially refused to speak with officers about the incident. He denied abusing the animal but complied with an order to pay almost $370 in restitution. He was also the focus of a protective order issued in Colorado in 2015.
Weber reported from New Braunfels. Associated Press writers John Mone in Sutherland Springs, Nomaan Merchant in Houston and Diana Heidgerd in Dallas also contributed to this report.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.