On May 11, First Lt Alejo Thompson, a father of two young children, was killed in an ambush in eastern Afghanistan that wounded two of his comrades. The Taliban says an Afghan Army soldier named Mamood turned on his American trainers and opened fire.
Now the Taliban has released a sickening video that it claims to show Mamood being welcomed back to the insurgent encampment as a hero.
Elders embrace him and adorn him with necklaces strung with flowers. They congratulate him on his deed as he smiles for the camera.
‘I opened fire on three Americans who were sitting together,’ Mamood says, according to an ABC News translation.
‘The reason I killed them is because they have occupied our country. They are enemies of our religion and they kill our innocent people.’
The Taliban claims Mamood was an Afghan Army defector who turned on his American trainers in on May 11.
In the video, he is still wearing his uniform and carrying his western-style M-16 assault rifle.
The assertion cannot be verified, but it matches up with a widely reported attack in Kunar province on that day. A gunman named Mamoon was identified as the soldier who opened fire on the Americans — wounding two and killing one.
The Army hasn’t confirmed that Lt Thompson was the target of the attack — though it says he was killed by small arms fire on May 11.
Lt Thompson, from Yuma, Arizona, was a decorated soldier who had served in Iraq in 2003.
His unit, part of the 4th Brigade Combat Team based at Fort Carson, Colorado, had been in Afghanistan for two months. The officer, age 30, was a 12-year veteran of the Army, who left behind a wife and a son, age 12, and a daughter, age 5.
Commanders said he was a quiet leader, who demanded the loyalty through strong, brave actions and not by shouting.
In Afghanistan, Mamood started referring to himself as Ghazi Mahmood, or ‘Warrior Mahmood,’ ABC reports.
Children are seen standing in the Taliban camp shouting ‘jihad, jihad’ as well as ‘long live the warrior.’
Men, some with with faces covered and others brazenly showing who they are, mill around and shake Mamood’s hand. Some are holding rocket-propelled grenade launchers. Others have assault rifles in their hands or slung across their backs.
The video is a rare window into how a Taliban insurgent unit operates. Fighters who killed Americans often receive money, fame and stature for themselves and for their families.
A spokesman for NATO forces said the incident does not reflect widespread problem in the nation.
‘The insurgents are well versed at taking a snapshot in time and then alleging that it reflects a broader movement,’ James Graybeal told ABC News.
‘We know better… Today, the vast majority of the 350,000 members of the Afghan National Security Forces are serving honorably and defending their country against those with no positive vision for the future.’