- The Washington Times - Monday, June 16, 2003

FORT KNOX, Ky. (AP) — A military hearing opened yesterday for a soldier accused of a deadly grenade attack on his fellow Americans in Kuwait, with a major testifying that he was wounded by a gunshot after a grenade was rolled into his tent.

Army Sgt. Hasan K. Akbar, of the 101st Airborne Division’s 326th Engineer Battalion, is charged with killing two officers and injuring 14 other persons in the March 23 attack.

The purpose of the Article 32 hearing, similar to a civilian grand jury proceeding, is to determine whether Sgt. Akbar should be court-martialed. He could face the death penalty if convicted on two counts of premeditated murder and three counts of attempted murder.

The attack on officers from the Fort Campbell-based division’s 1st Brigade happened days before the brigade was scheduled to move into Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Those killed were Army Capt. Christopher Scott Seifert, 27, of Easton, Pa., and Air Force Maj. Gregory Stone, 40, of Boise, Idaho.

Sgt. Akbar was present at the hearing, looking subdued, as Maj. Kenneth Romane testified.

Maj. Romane said he was working on his computer in the tent he shared with other officers around 1 a.m. when he heard footsteps. Then a grenade was rolled into the tent.

He was not injured by the grenade. He said he loaded his pistol, stepped outside, and was shot. The single bullet hit both of his hands and his left thigh.

“I just know whoever it was shot before I could recognize who it was,” Maj. Romane said.

Another soldier, Maj. Verner Kiernan, testified that Sgt. Akbar was the last noncommissioned officer who had been guarding a cache of grenades, and four of them were unaccounted for after the attack.

He said he had heard an explosion and a commotion, then saw a black man in desert camouflage at the entrance of his tent. Sgt. Akbar is black. A second or two later, Maj. Kiernan testified, he heard something roll across the plywood floor of the tent.

“The whole tent was filled with smoke and [the grenade] had caused a fire in the back of the tent,” Maj. Kiernan said.

Maj. Kiernan said he helped Maj. Stone, who was wounded in the neck but still conscious, until he was put on an ambulance.

Capt. Seifert, he testified, had a gunshot wound in the back.

Prosecutors expect to call 39 witnesses for the hearing, with 23 of them testifying over a video link from Mosul, Iraq.

Sgt. Akbar, 32, has the right to testify on his own behalf at the hearing, but the Army has not said whether he is expected to do so.

The Army has not suggested a possible motive in the attack. But George Heath, a Fort Campbell spokesman, said soon after the attack that Sgt. Akbar had “an attitude problem.”

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