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101st Attack: The Investigation

Aired March 24, 2003 - 00:52   ET


AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Camp Pennsylvania in the northern part of Iraq where an American soldier is now in custody for it is alleged, he hasn't been convicted, it is alleged, I guess you would call it this war's version of a fragging incident. We haven't looked at that but we should and so we will.

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The soldier detained on suspicion of throwing grenades into a command tent of the 101st Airborne last night in Northern Kuwait today has a name, Sergeant Asan Akbar, stationed at the Airborne's home base, Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

GEORGE HEALTH, 101ST COMMAND CENTER SPOKESMAN: He was having what some people might call seems an attitude problems.

BROWN: Roughly 24 hours after the attack, things are at least somewhat more clear. The suspect, military officials say, threw three grenades and fired two shots into the command tent. The loan fatality so far, according to the military, was Captain Christopher Scott Seifert. Among the dozen or so hurt, was commander of the unit's first brigade, Colonel Ben Hodges, who received some minor injuries. An embedded reporter at the camp said a grenade rolled next to Colonel Hodges but did not explode.

HEALTH: When somebody's firing at you, you know who the enemy is. And when they're standing in the same mess chow line or using the same shower with you that sometimes it's hard to recognize. So it's been a -- it's had a detrimental effect, probably, on the morale. But the soldiers went over pumped up, ready to do their mission, knowing what they were supposed to do and they'll work their way through this and they'll continue to do their mission in the fashion that 101st soldiers have always done their mission.

BROWN: It is still unclear precisely what happened last night, but military sources say Sergeant Akbar, who was born Mark Cools (ph), was in an engineering unit and last night had been assigned to guard an ammunition depot where grenades were stored. At this hour, Sergeant Akbar, according to the military again, continues to be questioned by the Army's Criminal Investigation Division.


BROWN: General Clark, when you look at that last shot of that young man sitting there in the desert, break your heart, make you angry, both? GENERAL WESLEY CLARK (RET.), FORMER NATO SUPREME COMMANDER: Both. I mean, first of all, I mean, yes, I mean everybody's angry about how he could do this. How could -- how could he attack the leadership of the brigade? It wasn't even personal. He wasn't even part of that brigade. He didn't know those people. He just -- we can't imagine what the motivation would be. And I look at him, it's a man who's ruined his life, ruined other lives.

BROWN: And you can't imagine, I can't, I mean I've been out there, that you could get away with it.

CLARK: Can't get away with it.

BROWN: Can't get away with it.

CLARK: Absolutely not.

BROWN: You're either going to get killed or you're going to get caught. Those are the -- realistically, those are the two options.

CLARK: Yes, I know. I -- it's impossible to understand from here what could possibly have -- what could he have been thinking? What is the matter with this young man? And they're going to find out, and -- but this is a -- this is a violation of Uniform Code of Military Justice. It's an attack on senior officers, it's murder, at least that's the -- what it would seem to be. It's a very -- it's a very serious crime.

BROWN: The -- in -- as the chain of command looks at this, will they go to his immediate superior and say what? I mean they knew he had problems. There -- he had been reprimanded recently. There was a suggestion today that he had expressed, to his mother at least, that he could -- he did not believe in the war and could not support the war after his recent conversion, or after his conversion, I'm not sure how recent it was, to Islam. Is there a chain of command question here?

CLARK: Probably is, Aaron, but I think there's really two questions. One is there's military justice. This man took actions that caused the death and serious injury of his fellow soldiers. That's a violation of Uniform -- that's military justice.

And then there's the issue of well who was he and why was he doing this and why did nobody know about it? And if they did, did they not appreciate the seriousness of it and could it have been prevented? And maybe it couldn't have been. Maybe it was such a bizarre...


CLARK: ... action that it couldn't have been. But that question will be asked.

BROWN: Actually that's -- I wondered about that last night, I mean you -- we expect a lot in -- from everyone in our universe, from our managers, whether it's in the Army or anywhere else. Is -- given that you are on a military base, there are literally tons and -- of weapons around, grenades and rifles and everybody's armed and everybody's pumped to one degree or another and everybody's tired and most everybody's stressed, is it expected that management, if you will, consider the fact that one of the guys might snap?

CLARK: Well, yes.


CLARK: I mean because it's -- we call it leagership. And the leager is supposed to know and understand the people that work -- that he works with, the people he's responsible for. He's got to know those people intimately, what their hopes and fears and dreams are and their families and their worries. What is it that would cause someone like that to snap? Somebody you would think would know that. But you know, in many cases like this there are extenuating factors.

BROWN: I guess what I'm -- what I'm saying is that the idea that one of your guys might do this to your guys is that -- must that be in the realm of leagership consideration?

CLARK: Well if you're asking...

BROWN: And that's not exactly going AWOL.

CLARK: Well if you're asking, you know, would a leager think gee, I wonder if this guy is going to shoot somebody with a weapon?

BROWN: Yes, that's what I'm asking.

CLARK: Probably not the first thing on your mind as the leager. But let's say you're looking at a soldier, he's got an attitude that's like -- you know he's got his head down, he's not socializing with the other troops in the off duty, he doesn't give a smart salute, he doesn't say air assault, sir, he's just sort of there. And you would hope that somebody says so what's wrong? I mean let's talk about this. You don't seem like you're engaged in this thing mentally. You're not with it here. What's the matter, troop? And you know it may be a captain who says it, it may be a colonel.

BROWN: We'll revisit this. We need to take a short break first. Our coverage of the "WAR IN IRAQ" continues in a moment.



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