JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. — Little Robina took her seat wearing a deep-red head covering and a nervous smile, ready to tell her story. She giggled as any 7-year-old in the spotlight might.
But when the questions began, what she recalled seemed impossibly dark: how she hid behind her father when the gunman came to their village that night, how the stranger fired, and how her father died, cursing in pain and anger.
I was standing behind my father, she testified simply, by video feed from Afghanistan Saturday night during a hearing for the soldier accused of killing 16 civilians, including nine children, in Kandahar Province. He shot my father.
One of the bullets struck her in the leg, but she didn't realize it right away, she said.
Her testimony came on the second overnight session of the preliminary hearing for Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who prosecutors say slipped away from his base to attack two villages. The slayings drew such angry protests that the U.S. temporarily halted combat operations in Afghanistan, and it was three weeks before American investigators could reach the crime scenes.
The stories recounted by the villagers have been harrowing. They described torched bodies, a son finding his wounded father, and boys cowering behind a curtain while others screamed We are children! We are children!
Bales sat quietly throughout, betraying no reaction to what he heard.