SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- The election of a new pope could help heal the wounds left by a Roman Catholic sex abuse crisis that has savaged the church's reputation worldwide. For alleged victims, much depends on whether Pope Francis disciplines the priests and the hierarchy that protected them.
Some hope the Jesuit pontiff's well-known humility and social benevolence will lead to an era of greater transparency and renewed faith. A greater number, however, are calling on the new Roman Catholic leader to defrock U.S. cardinals who covered up for pedophile priests, formally apologize and order the release of all confidential church files from every diocese.
Adding to their distrust are several multimillion dollar settlements the Jesuits paid out in recent years, including $166 million to more than 450 Native Alaskan and Native American abuse victims in 2011 for molestation at Jesuit-run schools across the Pacific Northwest. The settlement bankrupted the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus.
It's unclear how much direct experience Pope Francis, an Argentine cardinal, has had dealing with sexually abusive clergy in Latin America, where the scope of the abuse scandal has been more muted. When the scandal broke, however, he made it harder for people to become priests and now 60 percent are eliminated, his authorized biographer, Sergio Rubin, told the AP.
In contrast, his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI was in charge of the Vatican office that handled clergy abuse cases before becoming pope and was a guiding force behind several sex abuse policies enacted under Pope John Paul II.
Those policies haven't been enough for most victims, who say they will scrutinize the new pope and his actions.
Elsie Boudreau, a Yup'ik Eskimo, was abused for nine years by a Jesuit priest in a tiny village in northern Alaska.
She settled her case in 2005 and now works as a social worker helping 300 other sex abuse victims in Alaska. She has since learned that Vatican officials had been aware of her alleged abuser since before she was born, she said.
"If Pope Francis were to defrock him and all the other perpetrator priests and all those who covered up the crimes and send a clear message to everybody else in the church I would be like, 'Hmm, OK, there could be a change,'" said Boudreau, 45, who now lives in Anchorage. "But I don't believe that will ever happen. There's no track record."
Other alleged victims called on Pope Francis to immediately order the release of all confidential records on pedophile priests in order to cleanse the church and make amends.
Confidential files have been made public through litigation in some cases and have been released under court order in others, including in Los Angeles where a judge ordered more than 10,000 pages of priest personnel files be made public in January after a five-year legal battle over privacy rights.
Still missing, however, are the files for about 80 priests who belonged to various religious orders — including the Jesuits — and attorneys are pressing for their release, said Ray Boucher, the lead plaintiff attorney.
In many other dioceses, alleged victims still don't know everything the church knew about their abusers.
"The pope has an opportunity to bring about true justice, change, and transformation in a church torn from scandal and the rape of children," said Billy Kirchen, who is one of 550 plaintiffs fighting to see files from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. "Real change has to come from the pope."
In Boston, clergy sex abuse victim Bernie McDaid expressed dismay that the new pope wasn't Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley, who reached out to abuse victims and set up a secret 2008 meeting with Pope Benedict XVI.
McDaid said the selection of Pope Francis, a cardinal from Latin America where the church is rapidly growing, shows the church is more interested in uniting its hierarchy than confronting its clergy sex scandal.
"They're putting their problems first again, instead of the real problem that's causing the disruption, which is the child sex abuse, which they still haven't worked through," McDaid said.
Other abuse victims said they were disgusted that cardinals who covered up abuse in their own dioceses helped elect the next pope.
Michael Duran, a 40-year-old special education teacher from Los Angeles, said Pope Francis' elevation is tainted because of their presence. Duran and three others settled with the Los Angeles archdiocese earlier this week for nearly $10 million over childhood abuse by the Rev. Michael Baker.
Recently released confidential files show Baker met privately with Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony in 1986 and confessed to molesting children, but he was put back in the ministry for 14 years, where he abused again. Authorities believe Baker, who was convicted in 2007 and paroled in 2011, may have molested more than 20 children in his 26-year career.
Duran was particularly upset that Mahony, who retired in 2011, took to Twitter and a blog to defend himself while in Rome.
In one post, Mahony wrote about praying for sex abuse victims but also for "those in the media who constantly malign me and my motives, attorneys who never focus on context or history in their legal matters, groups which picket me or otherwise object to me, and all those who despise me or even hate me."
"He was tweeting and blogging over there like an innocent man, and it was really offensive to me. He was acting like he was the martyr, like he was the victim in all this," Duran said.
If Pope Francis did take action against any U.S. cardinals, it would be a departure from the way his predecessors addressed the clergy abuse crisis.
In 2001, Pope John Paul II issued a decree saying all clergy abuse cases needed to be funneled through the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith — then headed by the future Pope Benedict XVI — for review.
In 2002, in his strongest comments about the unfolding scandal, Pope John Paul II denounced U.S. bishops for the American clergy abuse crisis after summoning them to Rome for a special meeting. He said there was "no place in the priesthood ... for those who would harm the young."
In 2003 and 2004, he approved changes to canon law to allow the Vatican to quickly defrock abusive priests without cumbersome internal trials.
Given the progressive decline in Pope John Paul's health, however, it is widely presumed that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — the future Pope Benedict XVI — was the architect of those measures in his role as head of the Vatican department that handled clergy abuse allegations.
Earlier this year, the Vatican's new sex crimes prosecutor, quoting Benedict, said the church must recognize the "grave errors in judgment that were often committed by the church's leadership." He added that bishops must report abusive priests to police where the law requires it.
The comments came days after the release of the Los Angeles confidential files.
Now, with a new pope, victims in the U.S. hope more change is coming — but they aren't optimistic.
"Most cardinals say he's already won their hearts. Fine, but what about the people in the pews? What about us survivors?" said Esther Miller, who was part of a $660 million settlement in 2007 between more than 500 alleged abuse victims and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. "I think his actions need to speak louder than words."
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Purnimaya Lama would like to know what happened to her husband, Arjun.
Eight years ago he was a prosperous businessman and a respected member of his community in the hills outside Kathmandu.
But one day, a group of Maoists arrived to take him away.
"I have no idea why he was taken," says the 49-year-old mother of six.
"He had good relations with everyone in the village."
Arjun's abduction happened during the height of Nepal's 10-year civil war, which started in 1996 when Maoist rebels began attacking the state security forces.
Purnimaya waited years to find out news of Arjun. Then she heard a rumour that he may have been killed.
"I demanded to know why the Maoists had killed my husband and I also demanded that they show me the body of my dead husband," she says.
"But up to now, nothing has happened."
Purnimaya's story is typical of many of those that emerged from Nepal's brutal conflict.
The Maoists took up arms because, they said, they were fighting for equality. Their aim was to overthrow Nepal's ancient hierarchical and caste-based society.
But like many wars, the conflict also became a cover for the settling of personal grudges, for the theft of money and property and sometimes, for horrific crimes.
When Nepal's leaders signed a peace deal in November 2006, they promised to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate the killings and disappearances of more than 17,000 people during the war.
They pledged to respect human rights, to uphold international human rights laws and civil liberties.
But that was more than six years ago, and nothing's happened.
Atrocities took place on both sides of the conflict. The United Nations estimate that state security forces were responsible for 70% of the crimes, Maoist rebels the rest.
One crime that has come to symbolise the horror of wartime abuse is the water-torture, electrocution and killing of the 15-year-old schoolgirl Maina Sunuwar by soldiers.
Dewi Sunuwar: "I hoped the army wouldn't kill people"
The officers involved were later disciplined in a court martial, but were found guilty only of negligence and of not disposing of Maina's body correctly.
Often abduction, murder and torture were disguised as deaths that occurred because of clashes between the two sides - or "encounters" as these became known.
At one point, the Maoists told Purnimaya her husband had been killed in one-such encounter - in a Nepal Army air strike.
She later found out from villagers that he may have been forced to dig his own grave and that he had probably been buried alive.
"I heard he might have been buried in a certain area," she says.
"I did try to go there, but the Maoists had a stronghold there, so I feared losing my life if I went."
Babarum BhattaraiFormer Nepal Prime Minister
Nepali human rights lawyers have been fighting for cases like Purnimaya's to be prosecuted in civilian courts.
A number of arrest warrants have been issued, both by Nepal's district and Supreme Courts.
But these have not been followed up.
In many cases, those who have been identified as the perpetrators of serious crimes have gone on to be promoted - both in the army and in the Maoist party.
"Historically we've had problems in making people accountable, especially those who are in power," says human rights lawyer, Mandira Sharma.
"Earlier on we had the monarchy and they were always above the law, no one could challenge them.
"Now it's politicians - those who are in power. They think they are immune," she says.
To date, the only senior commander from either side to be charged for a serious crime relating to the conflict is Colonel Kumar Lama.
Earlier this year he was arrested in Britain and faces two counts of torture under the principle of universal jurisdiction.
His trial is expected to begin in June.
Nepal's former Maoist Prime Minister, Babarum Bhattarai, says his country is committed to setting up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and to respecting the rule of law.
"We are not for impunity. All cases should be looked into by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and dealt with," he says.
But he adds that fighting between political parties has slowed down the process. And Nepal's Maoist revolution is still not over.
"This is an unfortunate issue, but in every revolution we have to make certain sacrifices," he says.
It seems the sacrifices demanded by the leaders are being made by ordinary Nepalis.
These days, Purnimaya Lama often joins what's become a permanent protest outside the prime minister's residence demanding justice.
To the chants of "where is democracy, where is justice", demonstrators say they're determined to keep up pressure on Nepal's leaders to fulfil their promise to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
In Purnimaya's case, an arrest warrant has been issued for the Maoist leader commanding the district where her husband Arjun was taken.
But this man, Agni Sapkota, remains free. And more than free - he is now a member of parliament and the Maoist party spokesman. But he maintains his innocence.
"I think each side is trying to protect their own," says Kathmandu newspaper editor, Kunda Dixit.
"There's this very cosy relationship between the former enemies, the state security forces on one side and the Maoists and their army on the other.
"So in a sense, it's you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours."
Many Nepalis fear that if this relationship continues and if the issue of justice is swept under the carpet, Nepal's fragile peace could be in danger.
"What I've been struck by is the lack of the sense of revenge here," says Kunda Dixit.
"But that doesn't mean that people's patience is unlimited. I think they'll come to a point where the injustice will be so glaring, so blatant to the families of the victims, that they will do something.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday heard personal stories of gun violence from representatives of victims groups and gun-safety organizations as he drafts the Obama administration's response to the shooting at a Connecticut elementary school. He pledged that action would be taken.
"I want to make it clear that we are not going to get caught up in the notion (that) unless we can do everything we're going to do nothing," Biden said. "It's critically important (that) we act."
The meeting was part of a series Biden is holding this week to build consensus around proposals to curb gun violence after the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown, Conn. Twenty school children were killed.
Biden meets Thursday with the National Rifle Association and other gun-owner groups. Meetings with representatives of the video-game and entertainment industries also are planned.
President Barack Obama wants Biden to deliver policy proposals by the end of the month. Obama has vowed to move swiftly on the package, which is expected to include legislative proposals and executive action.
Participants in Wednesday's meeting with Biden included the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence and groups from Arizona, Illinois and Wisconsin, states with spates of gun violence that garnered national attention, including the shooting in Arizona of then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Also present were two survivors of the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech that killed 32 people, as well as a stepfather of a victim of last July's massacre at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., in which a dozen people were slain. Attorney General Eric Holder also attended.
But as the shock and sorrow over the Newtown, Conn., shooting fades, the tough fight facing the White House and gun-control backers is growing clearer. Gun-rights advocates, including the powerful NRA, are digging in against tighter gun restrictions, conservative groups are launching pro-gun initiatives and the Senate's top Republican has warned it could be spring before Congress begins considering any gun legislation.
"The biggest problem we have at the moment is spending and debt," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said this week. "That's going to dominate the Congress between now and the end of March. None of these issues will have the kind of priority as spending and debt over the next two or three months."
The killing of 6- and 7-year-olds at Newtown's Sandy Hook Elementary School appeared to stir a deep reaction from the White House and Capitol Hill. Obama pushed gun control to the top of his domestic agenda for the first time and pledged to put the full weight of his presidency behind the issue. Some Republican and conservative lawmakers with strong gun-rights records also took the extraordinary step of calling for a discussion on new measures.
But other gun-rights advocates have shown less flexibility. The NRA has rejected stricter gun legislation and suggested instead that the government put armed guards in every U.S. school as a way to curb violence. A coalition of conservative groups is also organizing a "Gun Appreciation Day" to coincide with Obama's inauguration this month.
The president hopes to announce his administration's next steps to tackle gun violence shortly after he is sworn in for a second term on Jan. 21.
Obama wants Congress to reinstate a ban on military-style assault weapons, close loopholes that allow gun buyers to skirt background checks and restrict high-capacity magazines. Other recommendations to the Biden group include making gun-trafficking a felony, getting the Justice Department to prosecute people caught lying on gun background-check forms and ordering federal agencies to send data to the National Gun Background Check Database.
Some of those steps could be taken through executive action, without the approval of Congress. White House officials say Obama will not finalize any actions until receiving Biden's recommendations.
Gun-rights lawmakers and outside groups have insisted that any policy response also include an examination of mental health policies and the impact of violent movies and video games. To those people, the White House has pledged a comprehensive response.
"It is not a problem that can be solved by any specific action or single action that the government might take," said White House spokesman Jay Carney said. "It's a problem that encompasses issues of mental health, of education, as well as access to guns."
In addition to Biden's meetings this week, Education Secretary Arne Duncan will meet with parent and teacher groups, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will meet with mental health and disability advocates.
The White House said other meetings are also scheduled with community organizations, business owners and religious leaders.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Criminals, who savagely gang-raped a woman on a bus in New Delhi last month, tried to run her over, police revealed. Amid continuing protests, some are calling for a new rape law to be named after the 23-year-old victim.
The victim’s 28-year-old boyfriend managed to pull the woman aside from under the wheels of the bus just in time, police said.
The crime happened on December 16, when the 23-year-old woman and her 28-year-old male friend were beaten with iron rods by six men on a bus heading from the Munirka area of Delhi to Dwarka. The men gang-raped the female victim for almost an hour and then threw the couple from the moving bus.
The young woman died several days ago from organ failure in hospital in Singapore, following serious injuries to her body and brain. She underwent several operations but ultimately succumbed to the trauma of the assault after 13 days.
The rape case has become the focus of protests across India, rallying for greater protection for women and tougher laws on sexual violence.
India’s junior Education Minister Shashi Tharoor has proposed naming a new law after the Delhi rape victim unless her parents object. However, the authorities have still not released the woman’s name.
"Wondering what interest is served by continuing the anonymity of the Delhi gang rape victim. Why not name and honor her as a real person with her own identity?" Tharoor wrote on his Twitter.
Six men have been arrested, charged with the rape and murder of the woman. Five of them could face the death penalty, according to the police. While the sixth is under 18, meaning he will be tried in a juvenile court, although he’s yet to undergo a bone test to determine his age, according to AFP.
Common anger reached a hot point, when three men allegedly wanted to plant bombs at the house of the prime accused in Delhi gang-rape case, police said. One of the plotters was arrested on Monday, two crude bombs were recovered from him.
Officials have reportedly announced a series of measures aimed at making the city safer for women, including more police night patrols, checks on bus drivers and their assistants, and the banning of buses with tinted windows or curtains. The government has also set up a 13-member committee under a retired Supreme Court judge to recommend changes to the criminal law dealing with sexual crimes.
India's top court also said it could suspend lawmakers facing sexual assault charges.
But the core of the problem is seen by many protesters in the fact that women are viewed as second-class citizens, and only a fundamental change in culture and attitudes to women backed up by law could protect them.
New Delhi has a strong reputation as India’s rape capital, with a report from the Hindustan Times documenting more than 20 rape cases since December 16 in the city.
Victims of gang-rapes often do not come forward to the police in India for fear of shaming their families or being ignored by police. Moreover, cases are so widespread that they are rarely covered by the press.
Since the news of the brutal gang rape and murder broke in December, almost 300 Delhi women have applied for gun licenses, Delhi police said. Some 1,200 more have called the licensing department to inquire how to obtain one. Hundreds turned up at the police department seeking permission to get a gun for self-defense.- www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- It is a story that has shocked a nation. A 23-year-old medical student was gang-raped, beaten with a metal rod and thrown off a bus in New Delhi on December 16.
After battling with severe internal injuries, the woman died on Saturday morning from organ failure, in a hospital in Singapore.
Thousands emerged to the streets of New Delhi to pay respects to the victim. Hundreds gathered in the areas of Munirka, and at Jantar Mantar, holding placards and sitting in silence to mourn a death that has fast becoming a symbol for gender activists in a country who say India is becoming increasingly unsafe for women.
Though the Indian government has promised stronger laws on gender based crimes, activists are calling on authorities for radical changes including tougher punishments for perpetrators, stronger policing and a more efficient judicial system as outrage grows across the country.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Britain has paid out $22.7m to Iraqis who accused UK troops of illegally detaining and torturing them following the 2003 invasion.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) on Thursday confirmed a report in the Guardian newspaper which revealed that the government had given compensation to 205 complainants over the last five years, with more than 700 claims expected next year.
Some $13.4m was paid to 162 Iraqis this year, with the average settlement being $113,500 plus costs.
The claims stem back to the five-year occupation of the southeast of the country and have mostly been brought by male civilians who claim they were beaten, threatened and deprived of sleep before being interrogated by British troops.
The ministry confirmed the payouts but defended Britain's record in Iraq.
"Over 120,000 British troops have served in Iraq and the vast majority have conducted themselves with the highest standards of integrity and professionalism," said a spokesperson.
"All allegations of abuse will always be investigated thoroughly. We will compensate victims of abuse where it is right to do so and seek to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice."
In 2010, the ministry set up the the Iraq Historical Allegations Team (IHAT), which is examining the possibility of criminal charges related to the abuse allegations.
IHAT has paid particular attention to the actions of a military intelligence unit called the Joint Forward Interrogation Team (JFIT).
JFIT interrogators filmed themselves threatening and abusing detainees, who appeared in footage to be bruised too tired to stand up. IHAT referred three soldiers to the Service Prosecuting Authority but prosecutors judged that that the incidents did not warrant war-crimes charges.
They ruled that one interrogator had committed offences, but that they were "in accordance with the training that they had been given" and warned against prosecution. A former JFIT guard told the Guardian that he was ordered to drag blindfolded prisoners around assault courses where they could not be filmed.
"[Rather than] a small number of mis-behaving individuals, rights groups say it was a systematic and systemic problem," said Al Jazeera's Rory Challands, reporting from London.
"They say the training that troops had been put through led to these problems, [creating] the kind of environment where abuse might happen ... that it was not just a few bad apples."
Death of Iraqi detainee
Meanwhile, a British army doctor who confirmed the death of an Iraqi detainee in 2003 was on Friday banned from practising after a tribunal found he lied about the injuries the civilian had suffered in a beating by British soldiers.
Derek Keilloh, now a family doctor, was struck off the medical register after the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) found him guilty on Sunday of dishonest conduct over the death of 26-year-old hotel receptionist Baha Mousa.
Keilloh, 38, had supervised a failed resuscitation attempt to save Mousa, who had been hooded and severely beaten by British soldiers after his arrest in September 2003 along with nine other suspected insurgents in the war-torn southern city of Basra.
Mousa, a father of two, died 36 hours after his arrest having sustained 93 separate injuries, including fractured ribs and a broken nose, an inquiry last year heard.
Keilloh, then a captain and regimental medical officer, claimed during a later interview, court martial and public inquiry that he had only seen dried blood around Mousa's nose.
But the MPTS found that the doctor had been aware of the Iraqi's other injuries from his own observations and from information by other medical staff.
At the end of a marathon 47-day hearing in Manchester, northwest England, the MPTS said Keilloh's "repeated dishonesty" meant he was no longer fit to work as a doctor.
"The panel determined that erasure is the only appropriate sanction in this case," MPTS chairman Brian Alderman told Keilloh.
"Given the gravity and nature of the extent and context of your dishonesty, it considers that your misconduct is fundamentally incompatible with continued registration."
The tribunal found that Keilloh failed to conduct an examination of Mousa's body or to act to protect the other civilian detainees from mistreatment, and also failed to notify a superior officer of what had happened.
But it recognised that Keilloh had done "everything possible" to save Mousa's life in a setting that was "highly charged, chaotic, tense and stressful".
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- The mother and uncle of 6-year-old Noah Pozner delivered messages at his funeral reflecting on the life of the little boy killed in Friday's school shooting, and lessons to draw from his loss. People identifying themselves as reporters were not allowed into the service, but the family made transcripts available to The Associated Press. Here they are, in full:
From mother, Veronique Pozner:
The sky is crying, and the flags are at half-mast. It is a sad, sad day. But it is also your day, Noah, my little man. I will miss your forceful and purposeful little steps stomping through our house. I will miss your perpetual smile, the twinkle in your dark blue eyes, framed by eyelashes that would be the envy of any lady in this room.
Most of all, I will miss your visions of your future. You wanted to be a doctor, a soldier, a taco factory manager. It was your favorite food, and no doubt you wanted to ensure that the world kept producing tacos.
You were a little boy whose life force had all the gravitational pull of a celestial body. You were light and love, mischief and pranks. You adored your family with every fiber of your 6-year-old being. We are all of us elevated in our humanity by having known you. A little maverick, who didn't always want to do his schoolwork or clean up his toys, when practicing his ninja moves or Super Mario on the Wii seemed far more important.
Noah, you will not pass through this way again. I can only believe that you were planted on Earth to bloom in heaven. Take flight, my boy. Soar. You now have the wings you always wanted. Go to that peaceful valley that we will all one day come to know. I will join you someday. Not today. I still have lots of mommy love to give to Danielle, Michael, Sophia and Arielle.
Until then, your melody will linger in our hearts forever. Momma loves you, little man.
From uncle, Alexis Haller, of Woodinville, Wash.:
On Friday, Dec. 14, we tragically lost a most beloved member of our family. Noah was a 6-year-old little boy, and he was so dear to all of our hearts.
Words cannot express the unfathomable loss we feel.
Noah was a wonderful son and a loving brother. He was kind, caring, smart, funny, and sometimes even a little mischievous. He liked to tell his sisters that he worked in a taco factory; when they asked him how he got to work, he would give them a funny look as if to say he knew something that they didn't.
Noah was a little kid. He loved animals, video games and Mario Brothers. He was already a very good reader, and had just bought a Ninjago book at a book fair that he was really excited about reading. He was also very excited about going to a birthday party he had been invited to. It was to take place on Saturday, Dec. 15.
Noah loved his family dearly, especially his mom, his dad, his big sisters Danielle and Sophia, his big brother Michael, and his dear twin Arielle. He called Arielle his best friend, and she was – and always had been.
If Noah had not been taken from us, he would have become a great man. He would been a wonderful husband and a loving father. He would have been a backbone of our family for years to come. His loss, and our loss, are deep indeed.
It is unspeakably tragic that none of us can bring Noah back. We would go to the ends of the Earth to do so, but none of us can.
What we can do is carry Noah within us, always. We can remember the joy he brought to us. We can hold his memory close to our hearts. We can treasure him forever. And all of us, including the family, the community, the country and the world, can honor Noah by loving each other and taking care of each other. That's what Noah would have wanted.
Noah, we love you so much, we miss you dearly, and we will never, ever forget you.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) - An Afghan villager and two of his sons, who survived a night-time shooting rampage in March, testified on Saturday that they saw only one U.S. soldier attacking their compound, backing the U.S. government's account.
Military prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, accusing him of killing 16 villagers, mostly women and children, when he ventured out of his remote camp on two revenge-fueled forays over a five-hour period in March.
The shootings in Afghanistan's Kandahar province marked the worst case of civilian slaughter blamed on an individual U.S. soldier since the Vietnam War and damaged already strained U.S.-Afghan relations.
The U.S. government says a coherent and lucid Bales acted alone and with "chilling premeditation".
Some villagers told reporters shortly after the attacks that more than one U.S. soldier was involved, but there have been no sworn statements to that effect made publicly.
Early on Saturday, three survivors answered questions via video-link from Kandahar Air Field to a hearing at a U.S. Army base in Washington state - the first time Afghan witnesses have testified under oath about what transpired on March 11.
"He shot me right here," said Haji Mohamed Naim, the father of nine sons in the village of Alkozai, the scene of the first shootings.
Speaking through an interpreter, he said all he could see was a strong light on the head of a soldier who was not more than half a meter (yard) away from him when he started shooting.
Naim said he was awoken in the night by sounds of shots and dogs barking, and then children from the next door house knocked on his door. He then described how an "American" jumped from a wall before confronting him and starting to shoot.
Two of Naim's sons, who were also in the compound, said they saw only one U.S. soldier on the night in question.
"Yes, I saw him, he came after me, I went to another room," said Naim's son Sadiquallah, who said he was 13 or 14 years old. He described how he hid behind a curtain in a storage room with one other child, and was hit in the ear with a bullet, but did not see who fired the shot.
"How many Americans did you see?" one of the prosecution attorneys asked Sadiquallah. "One," he replied.
His older brother Quadratullah, who said he was 14, was unscathed in the attack, but said he saw a U.S. soldier shooting other children.
"Yes I saw the American," he answered a government attorney. "I said 'We are children, we are children', and he shot one of the kids," Quadratullah said, through an interpreter.
"We saw only one American," he added.
At a courtroom at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Bales sat impassively throughout the proceedings, watching the witnesses on a TV screen in front of him.
FIRST AFGHAN TESTIMONY
The Afghan villagers testified on the fifth day of a hearing to establish whether there is enough evidence to put Bales before a court martial.
A veteran of four combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bales faces 16 counts of premeditated murder and six counts of attempted murder, as well as charges of assault and wrongfully possessing and using steroids and alcohol while deployed.
Prosecutors have presented physical evidence to tie Bales to the crime scene, with a forensic investigator saying a sample of blood on Bales' clothes matched a swab taken in one of the compounds where the shooting occurred.
Bales' lawyers have not set out an alternative theory, but have pointed up inconsistencies in testimony and highlighted incidents before the shooting where Bales lost his temper easily or appeared unbalanced, possibly setting up an argument that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Gathering evidence and witness statements was complicated by the speedy burial of victims, the inability of U.S. investigators to access the crime scenes for three weeks after the violence for fears of revenge attacks, and the dispersal of possible witnesses after treatment at a Kandahar hospital.
Bales' lead civil defense attorney John Henry Browne, who is in Kandahar to question the witnesses, complained early in the investigation that his team was denied access to villagers wounded in the attacks.
SHAFAQNA (Shia international Association) — A wheelchair-bound Israeli was in serious condition on Sunday after setting himself on fire just hours before the funeral of a man who had set himself alight during a social justice protest on July 14.
A man in a wheelchair set himself on fire at a bus stop near Yehud" near Tel Aviv, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
"Passersby put out the flames. The man, in his late forties, was in serious condition, he was taken to the Sheba hospital in Tel HaShomer," he said.
"From what we know, he set himself on fire," Rosenfeld said, indicating that an investigation was under way.
Sunday's apparent self-immolation, carried out by a man who is reportedly a disabled Israeli army veteran, took place just hours before the funeral of Moshe Silman.
Silman died on Friday, six days after setting himself ablaze at a Tel Aviv social justice demonstration.—www.shafaqna.com/english
SHAFAQNA (Shia international Association) — One victim of the Aurora shooting has reportedly saved a man’s life from beyond the grave. Receiving two new lungs from the deceased organ donor, “Uncle Greg” will now be able to live.
The news broke as Reddit user lucasmassey posted an image of his uncle and two women in the hospital after the operation.
“My Uncle Greg just got two new lungs from a victim of the Aurora shootings. Amazing that such tragedy saves a man’s life too,” the post read.
The post received more than 1,000 comments, and nearly 20,000 views in the first four hours of its posting and quickly rose to be Reddit’s top post of the day.
“I know if I was in the victim’s family’s shoes, the idea of your uncle getting another chance would be such a great source of comfort,” wrote Reddit user swordfishtrombonez.
“To think that the alternative is simply to have perfectly good organs go to waste in a box in the ground… not being an organ donor seems such a selfish waste,” replied bunglejerry.
In the United States, more than 100,000 people are waiting for an organ donation to save their lives. Another name is added to the national organ transplant waiting list every 10 minutes, and 18 people die every day from lack of available organs.
As of March, 113,115 US patients were waiting for an organ donation.
While the tragic nature of the Colorado shooting has received global attention, the story of a saved life may bring minor comfort to those seeking better news.—www.shafaqna.com/english