Oregon Live November 2, 1012
A Portland jury found defense contractor KBR Inc. was negligent, but did not commit fraud against a dozen Oregon Army National Guard soldiers who sued the company for its conduct in Iraq nine years ago. Magistrate Judge Paul Papak announced the decision about 3:35 p.m. the U.S. Courthouse in Portland. Each soldier was awarded $850,000 in non-economic damages and $6.25 million in punitive damages.
“It’s a little bit of justice,” said Guard veteran Jason Arnold, moments after the verdict was announced Friday afternoon. Arnold was one of four of the soldier-plaintiffs in the courtroom was the verdict was read.
The verdict should send an important message to those who rely on military troops, he said.
“We’re not disposable,” said another soldier, Aaron St. Clair. “People are not going to make money from our blood.”
KBR’s lead attorney, Geoffrey Harrison, said the company will appeal.
“We will appeal the jury’s incorrect verdict,” he said. “We believe the trial court should have dismissed the case before the trial.”
Harrison said the soldiers’ lawyers produced a medical expert, Dr. Arch Carson, who offered “unsupported, untested medical opinions” that each soldier had suffered invisible, cellular-level injuries as a result of their exposure to hexavalent chromium.
The verdict means the jury did not hear clear and convincing evidence that KBR intended to deceive the soldiers in the way it operated at the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant, near Basra, Iraq. But they did find that the company failed to meet its obligations in managing the work at the plant.
Friday’s verdict closes the first phase of a web of litigation between National Guard and British troops against KBR Inc., the defense contractor they accuse of knowingly exposing them in 2003 to a carcinogen at Qarmat Ali. KBR has denied the accusations.
In Oregon another set of Oregon soldiers are waiting in the wings for their day in court. Magistrate Judge Paul Papak and the attorneys agreed earlier to hold an initial trial with the first 12 soldiers, in order to keep the proceedings from becoming too unwieldy. A second trial, featuring all or some of the remaining 21 plaintiffs, could begin in federal court in Portland this winter.
Another lawsuit brought by Indiana soldiers against KBR is on hold in federal court in Texas, while an appeals court considers a jurisdictional issue.
The cases stem from the chaotic aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. The Army Corps of Engineers hired KBR Inc. to run a massive program called Restore Iraqi Oil. The program involved dozens of sites throughout Iraq — sites that neither the Army nor KBR had visited before the invasion. The project was intended to quickly restore the flow of Iraq’s oil, partly to fund the war. The Pentagon remembered the way Saddam Hussein had lit the fields on fire during the first Gulf War, and feared a repeat in 2003.
Qarmat Ali was a compound where water was pumped underground to drive oil to the surface elsewhere. For decades, Iraqis had treated the water with sodium dichromate, an anticorrosion agent that contains hexavalent chromium, a known carcinogen. (Sodium dichromate is banned in the United States.)
Iraq’s Southern Oil Co. took delivery of sodium dichromate, an orange-yellow crystalline powder, in bags that were stored on site. Soldiers and others testified that the material was loose and drifting around the site, and had contaminated areas even outside the chemical injection building where it was added to the water.
How contaminated was it? Accounts differ. Even one of the plaintiffs in this case said he didn’t notice any soil discoloration. One of the British soldiers whose testimony was prerecorded said it was everywhere. Another Oregon soldier said it settled heavily on the clothing of the soldiers, who unwittingly carried it back to their camps over the border in Kuwait.
Much of KBR’s defense in the first Oregon trial focused on just how unlikely it was that any soldier — who visited the plant at durations from one day to 21 days — could have been exposed to dangerously high levels of sodium dichromate. But one of the most gripping portions of the testimony was when Oregon veteran Larry Roberta described eating a chicken patty that had been coated with the orange crystals, which he said immediately burned in his esophagus, causing him to vomit.
Roberta now is confined to a wheelchair and takes oxygen from a tank in his backpack. He had a history of gastrointestinal issues, but attributes much of his poor health to his time at Qarmat Ali.
Harrison, KBR’s lawyer, said the company “believes in the judicial process and respects the efforts and time of the jurors,” but believes the process that brought the case to conclusion Friday shouldn’t have been allowed to come so far.
“KBR did safe and exceptional work in Iraq under difficult circumstances,” he said in a brief, prepared statement. “We believe the facts and law ultimately will provide vindication.”
Soldier-plaintiff Arnold said the message of the verdict is unmistakable. He said service members are being exploited “to this day.”
Now, he said, “the voice will be out. There will be a lot more scrutiny.”
VOA August 21, 2012
The ministry said Tuesday that 45-year-old Mika Yamamoto was shot in the northern city of Aleppo. She worked for the Tokyo-based Japan Press, where she previously covered wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Fighting continues across Syria, where opposition activists say the violence killed at least 140 people Monday. The Local Coordination Committees says more deadly violence hit Damascus, Homs and Daraa on Tuesday.
Huffington Post August 10. 2012
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Authorities say a 6-year-old boy died when he triggered a landmine while collecting wood with his father in the forests of central Bosnia. The father was wounded in the blast.
Aldina Ahmic, spokeswoman for the police in central Bosnia, says the area the two were exploring Friday is a marked minefield some 50 kilometers north of Sarajevo.
Ahmic says the boy died instantly. His father, 37, is being treated at a Sarajevo hospital for serious shrapnel wounds.
Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war turned it into one of the world’s most mine-infested countries. Clearing the explosive devices is costly and complicated.
According to Bosnia’s Mine Action Center, 1,674 people have been killed or injured by mines since the war ended.
Information about the slain interpreter was not available.
WASHINGTON — A U.S. government aid worker killed in a suicide attack in Afghanistan was a former master planner for Prince George’s County.
Forty-three-year-old Ragaei Abdelfattah was killed Wednesday in the eastern Kunar province along with three coalition service members and an Afghan civilian.
The Washington Post (http://tinyurl.com/8ow2c7k ) reports that Abdelfattah was a native of Egypt and a naturalized American citizen who came to love the United States. He was married and had two teenage sons from a previous marriage.
In addition to his work for Prince George’s County, Abdelfattah spent five years with the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission.
His wife, Angela Ruppe, says Abdelfattah was fulfilled by the development work he was doing in Afghanistan.
Huffington Post August 10, 2012
A suicide bomber in eastern Afghanistan killed three troops, a U.S. aid worker and an Afghan interpreter on Wednesday, CNN reported.
According to the Department of Defense, the attack occurred when an insurgent detonated a suicide vest in Sarkowi, Kunar Province.
Army Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin J. Griffith, 45, the senior enlisted soldier of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division from Fort Carson, Colo., died in the explosion. Also killed were Army Maj. Thomas E. Kennedy, 35, of West Point, N.Y., Air Force Maj. Walter D. Gray, 38, of Conyers, Ga., and USAID Foreign Service Officer Ragaei Abdelfattah.
Several troops were also injured in the attack, but details were not released.
A 24-year Army veteran, Griffith had been deployed to Afghanistan in March after serving three tours in Iraq. He was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, the Casper Star Tribune reported.
Kennedy joined the Army in 2000 and also received the Bronze Star. At the time of his death, he was serving on his third deployment, including two tours in Iraq.
Gray was an Air Liaison Officer and flight commander attached to Fort Carson through the 93rd Air Ground Operations Wing at Moody Air Force Base, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported. Although commissioned as an officer in 1997, he was previously an enlisted Airman and one of the Air Force’s first career Air Liaison Officers.
Abdelfattah recently began his second voluntary tour in Afghanistan to continue supporting the country’s stability and long-term development.
“With the work of people such as Ragaei, the civilian surge we launched in Afghanistan in 2009 has made a tremendous impact, strengthening the capacity of the Afghan Government and laying a foundation for long-term sustainable development. Though we are shocked and saddened by this loss and will miss Ragaei, our efforts will continue,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.
Information about the slain interpreter was not available.
Associated Press at Sacbee August 9, 2012
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration says a U.S. government aid worker was killed in a suicide attack in Afghanistan.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned Wednesday’s attack by two men wearing suicide vests in the eastern Kunar province.
Clinton’s statement said USAID foreign service officer Ragaei Abdelfattah, three coalition service members and an Afghan civilian were killed. A State Department diplomat was injured.
Associated Press via Salt Lake Tribune August 8, 2012
KABUL, Afghanistan • A suicide attack hit a NATO patrol in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing three coalition service members, the international military force said, while Afghan officials added that a civilian was also killed in the bombing.
Kidron engineer killed in Afghanistan July 26, 2012
WOOSTER — A Kidron man taken hostage in Afghanistan in 2008 and held captive for 56 days before being released was shot and killed Monday in a rural part of that country.
Al Geiser, 65, of Kidron, was with two Afghans, one a business partner and close friend and the other a co-worker, and returning from a job that was part of a hydroelectric project when they were killed, according to a press release issued by Carl Wiebe, pastor of Kidron Mennonite Church.
The Associated Press reported gunmen killed three people in an ambush on a van in northern Afghanistan, and one of the victims was an electrical engineer who lived in the country for decades. However, the AP story did not contain the information of the American killed.
(AP) CNN News KABUL, Afghanistan – July 24, 2012
The U.S. embassy and Afghan officials say an American civilian who reportedly worked as an electrical engineer in northern Afghanistan has been killed by gunmen.
The U.S. Embassy on Tuesday could not provide further details because of privacy laws, but three Afghan security officials say the man, an electrical engineer working in Afghanistan for about 30 years, was shot Monday by gunmen as he rode in a mini-bus in northern Parwan province. The gunmen, two or three in number, also killed two Afghans, the driver and one of the man’s colleagues, they said.
Shirin Agha, the police chief in Parwan’s Siahgerd district, said on Tuesday that the American had been dressed in Afghan clothes and had a long beard
Fellowship for Reconciliation June 1, 2012
A night-time helicopter drug raid by Drug Enforcement Administration agents and Honduran police May 11 in the remote river community of Ahuas, Honduras killed four villagers, including two pregnant women and a 14-year-old boy. The massacre has led to renewed scrutiny of the U.S. role in Honduras.
DEA agents, Honduran police, private contractors, and a Guatemalan pilot participated in the operation. After the shooting, commandos landed from the U.S.-owned helicopters, broke down doors, and interrogated terrified villagers. Indignant indigenous groups in the area called for U.S. agents to leave the area by the end of May.
A fact-finding delegation led by Rights Action that visited Ahuas on May 22-23 reported that “at least ten, tall, light-skinned English speakers with limited Spanish proficiency wearing military type uniforms exited the helicopters to collect cocaine from a boat near the massacre site. They aimed guns at, threatened to kill, and handcuffed residents of the town who had come to assist the wounded.”
“Humanitarian space is generally understood as a space that exists separate from politics,”
The phenomenon of ‘shrinking humanitarian space’ is earnestly debated by aid workers. The often-heard complaint is that neutrality and independence is increasingly compromised by donors, peacekeepers and warring parties seeking to to co-opt them, and they blame the growing toll of attacks on agency staff on the perception that they are no longer impartial.
Now two researchers from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) in London have waded into the debate, challenging the whole idea of ‘humanitarian space’ as the agencies define it, and criticising the lack of historical perspective of those who believe there was ever a humanitarian golden age, when neutrality was respected and agencies could work in conflict zones free of political considerations.
In their paper, Humanitarian Space: a Review of Trends and Issues, Sarah Collinson and Samir Elhawary do not deny that the total number of attacks on aid workers has increased. But they argue that the number of aid workers, and the scale of their operations have also increased – massively – in recent years. More than 200,000 field-based aid workers are now estimated to be employed by the UN and international NGOs, and it is not clear that they are proportionately more at risk than their far less numerous predecessors.
Agencies also now consider it normal to expect to be able to work in areas of conflict and have their neutrality respected. That was not always the case. In the 1950s and 60s, respect for national sovereignty kept UN agencies out of countries affected by war, and the refugee agency UNHCR only worked with people who had already left their homeland. In the 1970s, idealistic new NGOs defied sovereign governments and worked with rebel groups to help the oppressed.
In the 1990s international peacekeeping efforts became more assertive and interventionist, but, say Collinson and Elhawary, “many aid agencies accepted the need for ‘coherence’ between humanitarian and diplomatic and security agendas as long as they trusted the basic humanitarian intent of the main donor governments.” It was only after the 9/11 attacks in the US, little more than 10 years ago, that agencies got concerned about being co-opted into the much more explicit security agenda of the so-called Global War on Terror.
“Humanitarian space is generally understood as a space that exists separate from politics,” Elhawary told an audience at the ODI this week, “and that to reverse politicisation we need to return to a clear, solid and predictable model, namely that by upholding these principles, and remaining outside of politics, an agency’s access will be guaranteed. But all access is essentially based on political compromise and results from the interplay of a range of actors’ interests and actions…We undertook a brief historical review since the cold war, and we found no past golden age for humanitarian action.”
FAIRBANKS — A Fairbanks engineer saw first hand last fall how Afghanistan is a dangerous assignment whether for a soldier or a civilian. While working on a new road in an Afghan village John J. Keys was hit by an 80-pound roadside bomb. Keys, another Army civilian and a translator survived, but two military men they had been working with for months were killed instantly.
Perhaps thankless is the best word for the engineering assignment. Keys found out later that the villagers for whom they were building the road likely saw the bomb-layers digging for several days to install the bomb.
Yet no one bothered to warn them.
Keys, 52, is no stranger to war zones. In his recent career he was been a a civil engineer at Fort Wainwright, where he helped design some the post’s barracks. But before coming to Fairbanks in 1994 he served in the Air National Guard during Operation Desert Storm and later on drug interdiction assignments in Central and South America.
As a civilian engineer, Keys said he has good protection from the military with a close aerial presence and an escort of soldiers. But he never forgot he was in a war. “You’re always careful,” he said. “You’re looking for signs of (improved explosive devices), hand trails where they bury the wires … You’re always aware that anything could happen at any time.”
On Oct. 19, Keys was inspecting a two-lane gravel road through the village of Yahya Khel in Eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistan border. He was on (and now directs) a provisional reconstruction team, a combined military and civilian crew that was going to convert a gravel road to cobblestones at the request of the village. As a member of the team, Keys wore full combat gear minus the weapons and was traveling with a convoy of heavy mine-resistant vehicles. Instead of an assault rifle he carried a camera to document the road conditions.
A photograph he took a few minutes before the blast shows a relatively innocuous scene: a dusty road flanked by earthen walls. A group of men in white robes sit and stand in a doorway talking to soldiers.
The blast went off about 100 meters from where the photograph was taken. The explosion killed Navy Chief Petty Officer Raymond J. Border, 31, of West Lafayette, Ohio, and Army Staff Sgt. Jorge M. Oliveira, 33, of Newark, N.J. Keys was blown of his feet and knocked 20 feet into a gully, according to an account of the explosion recorded in a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers news release.
“I don’t know how to describe it,” Keys said. “I was in full-body pain and I wasn’t where I started.”
The other Army civilian, Jacob A. West, 30, of Fayetteville, N.C., remembered only a smell of burning dirt, chemical and plastic from the moments after the blast, according to the Army news release. His first clear memory was sitting in the armored vehicle where he saw Keys return to the site of the blast to look for the two military men.
“He (Keys) did all that without being asked,” West said according to the release. “He did all that on his own without any regard for his personal safety. He was part of that team. I think that was significant. People should know that.”
This week, Keys and West were both presented the Defense of Freedom Metal, the equivalent of the military Purple Heart for Department of Defense civilians
Officials says some 31 others were wounded, including three foreigners — two men and a woman
Britain’s International Development ministry in London confirmed that three civilian members of the international aid team were among those injured in the blast
Three foreign civilians who were traveling in the vehicles – which belonged to a British-led provincial reconstruction team – were injured. The teams are made up of diplomats, civilian specialists and military personnel who work on development projects
AP Update Three civilian international members of the aid team – two men and one woman – were among the wounded, said Daud Ahmadi, a spokesman for the provincial governor. He said their injuries were not life threatening and did not know their nationalities.
Voice of America January 26, 2012
Afghan officials say a suicide car bomber has killed four civilians in an attack on a NATO-affiliated provincial reconstruction team in southern Afghanistan.
A spokesman for the governor of Helmand province said Thursday’s attack took place in the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah.
Officials say the bomber hit a convoy of armored vehicles passing near the education department building.
A child was among those killed in the attack. Officials says some 31 others were wounded, including three foreigners — two men and a woman.
At least 17 civilian cars were damaged, some bursting into flames. NATO has declined to comment on the attack.
Three American private contractors working for the Defense Department were killed when their helicopter crashed in southern Afghanistan on Monday, their company said. The contractors’ company, AAR Airlift, said that there were no other passengers on the helicopter and that the cause of the crash was not yet known
AAR Airlift Reports Helicopter Accident in Afghanistan
WOOD DALE, ILLINOIS (January 16, 2012) – AAR Airlift, an operating unit of Chicago based AAR CORP. (NYSE: AIR) reports that a helicopter carrying a crew of three employees was involved in an accident in Helmand Province, Afghanistan at approximately 10:45 a.m., local time, January 16, while conducting operations for the U.S. Department of Defense.
The Company has confirmed that there were three crew member fatalities. The families of all three crew members have been contacted. The Company reports that no passengers were aboard the aircraft at the time of the accident.
Company officials are working closely and cooperating fully with authorities in Afghanistan and stateside. A recovery effort is underway and the cause of the accident is unknown. Additional information will be provided as it becomes available.
The Company is focused on its employees and their families. A dedicated hotline has been set up for employees and family members at (321) 837-2427 for updates and support information
Kandahar, Afghanistan – A civilian helicopter crashed in the southern Afghan province of Helmand Monday, killing all three foreign nationals on board, the authorities said.
A security official who confirmed the three deaths, but could not verify the nationalities of the victims, said: ‘The helicopter was completely destroyed by the impact and subsequent fire.’
The Russian-made helicopter belonged to the US-based ARR airlift company, a contractor for NATO’s operations in Afghanistan.
Dozens of Russian-built cargo helicopters are used by contractors working for the NATO-led coalition.
The coalition relies heavily on helicopters or airdrops to deliver food and other supplies to remote outposts in order to avoid using roads that are frequently mined by the insurgents. Transport aircraft are also frequently used for airdrops to isolated bases.
Associated Press January 16, 2012
KABUL, Afghanistan — A civilian helicopter crashed in southern Afghanistan on Monday, killing all three people on board, an Afghan official said.
Marjan Haqmal, police chief of Nad Ali district in Helmand province, said the Russian-made aircraft probably went down because of a technical malfunction.
NATO confirmed that a civilian helicopter crashed Monday in southern Afghanistan. It said the site of the crash has been secured and that coalition forces are trying to gather more information about what happened.
The alliance did not provide information about casualties
Bloomberg January 10, 2012
KBR Inc. (KBR) settled a lawsuit brought by an injured convoy driver who claimed the company sent civilians into a battle zone in Iraq in 2004 knowing they would be attacked and possibly killed, according to a court filing.
Reginald Cecil Lane, the injured driver, reached a“confidential settlement” with KBR and its former parent,Halliburton Co. (HAL), his lawyer Tommy Fibich said in court papers yesterday. Lane and the defendants asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, according to the filing.
KBR, a Houston-based government contractor, was also sued by the families of seven drivers who were killed in Iraq. The company is appealing a ruling by U.S. District Judge Gray Miller in Houston allowing the suits to go forward. The other claims haven’t been settled, Scott Allen, a lawyer for the families, said today in a phone interview.
Sharon Bolen, a KBR spokeswoman, and Fibich didn’t immediately return calls or e-mails seeking comment on the settlement.
The case is Lane v. Halliburton, 06-CV-01971, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Houston)
Charlotte lawyers sought damages in six deaths and injuries in 2007 incident that sparked debate over use of private security contractors.
The Charlotte Observer January 6, 2012
“With respect to the Iraqi families and individuals who were plaintiffs in this lawsuit (it) provides them with compensation so they can now bring some closure to the losses they suffered,” the statement reads.
The lawsuit was the last active civil suit stemming from the incident, in which five Blackwater guards were accused in 14 deaths.
It was the second confidential settlement with the company’s corporate successor, Arlington-Va.-based Academi announced Friday, days after the final U.S. troops left Iraq.
A federal appeals court ended a lawsuit over an episode that produced one of the more disturbing images of the war: the grisly killings of four Blackwater security contractors and the hanging of a pair of their bodies from a bridge in Fallujah.
Families of those victims reached a confidential settlement with the company’s corporate successor, Arlington, Va.-based Academi, and the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the suit last week. The settlement was first reported Friday by The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, Va.
The following numbers do not include State Department/USAID or USACE contracts.
Kabul: Three UN employees were killed on Monday along with three others when a Taliban truck full of explosives was detonated near a compound housing UN offices in Afghanistan’s Kandahar city.
Two Afghan civilians and a policeman were also killed in the early morning attack that also involved gunmen, Xinhua reported.
The terror attack “resulted in the death of three UNHCR employees at our compound and the wounding of two other staff members”, said a statement issued by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Kabul.Though the statement did not disclose the nationalities of the victims, a police official told Xinhua all three were Afghans. The Kandahar administration said one of the wounded men was a Nepali who was the security guard of the UNHCR office.
KGO Newstalk October 31, 2011
(KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN) – The regional office of IRD, a USAID subcontractor, was targeted Monday morning in what’s being called a major attack; a suicide attacker driving a pickup truck began the attack, severely damaging the building. The explosion was followed by small arms fire.
According to Kandahar governor’s media office, the attackers took position inside a veterinary clinic in the area and continued to fire on security forces.This was described as a major attack because it targeted both the UN and the USAID contractor in Kandahar city.
foreigners were targeted, none were killed. However, this attack does mark the second major attack on foreigners in Afghanistan in three days. According to UN, US and Afghan police officials, the UN building suffered severe damage from the truck bomb, and four civilians and one policeman were killed. Four individuals were injured, including one Nepalese guard at the UNHCR guesthouse.