Thursday, March 05, 2009

Who killed Paula Loyd?

Last November, HTT Anthropologist Paula Loyd was attacked by an alleged Taliban member while conducting interviews with locals in Maywand Afghanistan.
She was doused with gasoline and set aflame. (here)
She passed away from the injuries in January
The perpetrator was apprehended and then shot dead by one of Loyd's associates.
For those not familiar with HTT, it is a program instituted by the US military for the purpose of understanding local culture.

When I first learned of this incident, there were many puzzling questions.
Why did she put herself in the position of being attacked in the first place?
A person of her background surely would know the risks involved with a woman speaking openly in public with local Islamic residents, particularly men.
Was she properly attired?
Did she have an escort?
Most of the accounts I've read put her with a second person, but it is not clear if the other was an armed escort, an interpreter or if that person was even nearby.
The shooter is identified by name and as an associate, but was away from the scene "chatting" with some US soldiers.
It seemed from first accounts that she was blatantly ignoring the risks and brought it on herself, which can't be discounted but yet it's hard to draw firm conclusions from a scenario such as this without more information.
Further reading on the subject reveals animosity between US military and the social scientists involved in the program.
The HTT members are apparently viewed with disdain by the soldiers. (here)

The shooter Don Ayala went to trial in February and plead guilty to the charge of manslaughter. (here)

I'd like to see the transcripts from the trial , the testimony of the witnesses, because the scenario doesn't quite fit. Where was her escort, the shooter? Did anyone else actually witness the attack?
The shooter said that he apprehended the attacker when the attacker ran directly towards them from the scene of the crime, but was he sure about the id? Did the shooter witness the attack?
Because Ayala plead guilty, I don't suppose any witnesses were called.
Questions about this incident need to be raised because of recent events in Afghanistan regarding other HTT people.
Death threats have been made against another female HTT member, Marilyn Dudley-Flores, and in the course of the investigation, some pretty disturbing events have come to light.
He's a quote from the story....
Sources allege that through the months of November and December 2008, Flores‐Dudley and other HTT female members were deliberately put in harm’s way by Milan Sturgis — a former HTT leader ‐‐ who sent Flores‐Dudley and female HTT members in known hot areas (like Qarabagh) where the Taliban was active, and, in one instance, knowingly had them wait for seven hours on a remote airstrip for a airlift back to Bagram, AB.
and another......
Further, the active duty lieutenant charged with protecting Dudley‐Flores and female teammates acted with discredit by fleeing and not covering Dudley‐Flores when she was fired upon (fire incident) and; in another incident, leaving his sidearm and other arms in a Humvee while a female HTT member was inside a structure interviewing Afghans who, it was later found out, were Taliban seeking intelligence.

Makes me wonder if Milan Sturgis was Paula's team leader as well.

Death Threat Tarnishes US Army Human Terrain System( here)

The facts as stated in the various publications conflict, such as where the attack occurred and where Ayala was at the time. Maybe that will eventually get cleared up.


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