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Army officer charged with murder of Afghan bomber suspect

KNXV Maj. Matthew Golsteyn.jpg
Posted at 12:36 PM, Dec 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-14 14:59:53-05

WASHINGTON (AP) — A former U.S. Army commando is being charged with murder in a long-simmering case alleging he tracked down and killed a suspected bomb-maker in Afghanistan.

Army Lt. Col. Loren Bymer said in a statement Friday that Maj. Mathew Golsteyn is charged with killing the Afghan during his 2010 deployment to Afghanistan. Bymer said Golsteyn's commander determined there was sufficient evidence to charge the former Army Green Beret with the crime.

Golsteyn, who was leading a team of Army Special Forces troops at the time, believed that the bomb-maker was responsible for an explosion that killed two U.S. Marines. The new charges will be reviewed to determine if the case should go to trial.

The Golsteyn case has been bounced around since 2011 when he told the CIA in a job interview that he had shot and killed the man. The Army Criminal Investigation Command, acting on information from the CIA, looked into the incident, but could never find anyone to corroborate Golsteyn's claim and couldn't find any remains of the Afghan.

CID, however, concluded the soldier committed the offenses of murder and conspiracy based on the interview provided by the CIA, according to an Army memo.

The Army revoked Golsteyn's Special Forces designation and the Silver Star he was awarded for heroism during a Taliban attack on his base in Helmand Province.

In 2015, a military board of inquiry at Fort Bragg, N.C., reviewed the case.

According to testimony and documents, Golsteyn led about 80 troops in a four-hour firefight in the Taliban stronghold of Marjah in February 2010. He repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire as he helped evacuate a wounded Afghan soldier and directed airstrikes against the Taliban, which earned him the Silver Star medal.

In November 2011, about two months before being promoted from captain to major, Golsteyn told the CIA during an interview that before that medal-winning battle he shot and killed the bomb-maker whom he blamed for the explosion that killed the Marines.

He recounted that the day after that explosion in a bazaar, two Afghan men walked up to the U.S. military compound with a third, bound Afghan who they said was responsible, according to testimony. The man was released when no bomb-making material was found.

Soon after, the alleged bomb-maker was shot while walking along a path in Marjah, according to testimony.

The Army's Criminal Investigative Division, acting on the CIA's tip, could find no one who corroborated Golsteyn's claim to have killed the bomb-maker, nor could it find any cremated remains of the Afghan. Despite that, investigators said "Golsteyn committed the offenses of murder and conspiracy based on the interview provided by the CIA," according to the Sept. 29 memo.

Golsteyn was never charged with a war crime, and the 2015 board of inquiry didn't attempt to establish whether he actually killed the Afghan. Instead, the panel considered whether he should be retained as an Army officer based on a reprimand in his personnel record.

The board determined he was guilty of conduct unbecoming an officer and he was discharged.