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Guardsman Awaits Trial In Slaying Of Afghan

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — An Army National Guardsman is awaiting a military trial at Fort Campbell, Ky., on a charge of murder in the shooting death of an Afghan last year.

Sgt. Derrick Anthony Miller was a member of a Connecticut National Guard unit that was attached to the 101st Airborne Division when he was accused of shooting Atta Mohammed in the head in September in eastern Afghanistan.

Miller, a decorated soldier who has also served in the Maryland National Guard, had deployed three times: twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan. He also worked as a security guard at Fort Detrick, Md.

Rick Rzepka, a spokesman for Fort Campbell, said Miller remains on active duty at the installation on the Tennessee-Kentucky state line while he awaits a court-martial, scheduled for June 6.

According to the charge, Miller is accused of shooting Mohammed with premeditation around Sept. 26 in Laghman Province with an M9 9 mm Beretta pistol. Miller’s attorney, Charles Gittins, of Virginia, declined to comment when reached Wednesday.

Around the time of the shooting, Afghan security forces and NATO troops conducted an air assault on the town of Masamute Bala to clear out Taliban forces reportedly in the area. Lt. Col. Patrick Seiber, a spokesman for the division in Afghanistan, said the shooting was an isolated incident that was not related to the offensive operation.

According to documents from the military investigation obtained by The Associated Press, the victim, an unarmed civilian, entered a defensive perimeter that Miller’s unit had set up around a mortar platoon. According to the documents, Miller took the Afghan into a latrine for further questioning along with an interpreter and another soldier.

When the man gave inconsistent answers, Miller raised the pistol to the man’s head and threatened him, according to a report of the shooting. There was a struggle between Miller and the Afghan and sometime after, Miller shot the man in the head, according to the report.

Miller said in a statement that the man grabbed for the gun and he shot the man in self-defense.

But according to the investigative report, the government says two witnesses to the shooting dispute that the Afghan was reaching for the gun. An Article 32 hearing, which is similar to a civilian grand jury, was held in December.

According to Miller’s attorney, the soldier is not being held in custody because a judge determined Miller was not a flight risk or a danger to commit misconduct. The charge of murder includes lesser charges of involuntary manslaughter or aggravated assault.

Miller was one of about 800 soldiers from 1st Battalion, 102nd Infantry, named Task Force Iron Grey, which was attached to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, according to Seiber.

Miller’s unit left the country in October after finishing a nine-month tour.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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