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Archive for Sunday, June 15, 2003

Hearing may reveal details of grenade attack

June 15, 2003

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— A deadly grenade attack on troops sleeping in their tents in Kuwait is all the more jarring for survivors and relatives because of the man accused: a fellow U.S. soldier.

An Article 32 hearing, similar to a civilian grand jury, begins Monday for Sgt. Hasan K. Akbar, who is charged with killing two officers and injuring 14 others in the March 23 attack.

"It was worse than an act of treason," said retired Chaplain Maj. Thomas G. Westall, a friend of the family of one of the men killed, Air Force Maj. Gregory Stone. "The sheer cowardliness is unexplainable."

Akbar, from the 101st Airborne Division's 326th Engineer Battalion at Fort Campbell, has the right to testify on his own behalf but the Army has not said whether he is expected to do so.

Akbar, 32, could face the death penalty if convicted in a court martial. He faces two counts of premeditated murder and three counts of attempted murder.

Before the hearing at Fort Knox, 150 miles east of Fort Campbell, the Army had not suggested a possible motive in the early morning attack on three separate tents. However, George Heath, a Fort Campbell spokesman, said shortly after the attack that Akbar had "an attitude problem."

Akbar's mother, Quran Bilal, told The Tennessean of Nashville she thought her son might have been accused because of his Muslim faith. She could not be reached for additional comment; no active phone listing for her could be found.

The Army had not released the names of Akbar's court-appointed military attorneys Saturday. Akbar had the right to hire outside civilian attorneys but did not do so, officials said.

Westall said Stone, 40, of Boise, Idaho, left two children, ages 11 and 7, both being raised by his ex-wife, Tonya. Westall said none of the answers they've received so far are enough.

Also killed was Army Capt. Christopher Scott Seifert, 27, of Easton, Pa.

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