Soldier charged in Afghan death released

Posted April 22, 2011, at 8:43 p.m.
Last modified April 22, 2011, at 10:03 p.m.

SEATTLE — One of five soldiers charged with killing Afghan civilians for sport was released from Army custody on Friday and placed on electronic monitoring pending his court-martial.

Spc. Michael Wagnon, 30, of Las Vegas will be assigned to a different unit at Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Seattle, but it remained unclear what his daily duties would be.

He has been in custody for about 11 months, after investigators alleged that he had joined the others in conspiring to kill three Afghan civilians in Kandahar province last year.

“He had tears in his eyes,” said his attorney, Colby Vokey. “The first thing he said was, ‘I can’t wait to spend the night at home with my wife and my kids.’”

One of the soldiers, Spc. Jeremy Morlock of Wasilla, Alaska, has given statements describing a plot he claimed was led by Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs of Billings, Mont., to murder civilians for fun while on patrol. The claims are some of the most gruesome war-crimes allegations to emerge from the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

US missiles kill 25 people in Pakistan tribal area

ISLAMABAD — U.S. missiles killed 25 people in an al-Qaida and Taliban sanctuary close to the Afghan border on Friday, Pakistani officials said, signaling American intent to press ahead with such attacks despite renewed protests by Islamabad.

In another reminder of the difficulties facing Washington, a well-known politician said he and his followers would try to “blockade” NATO supplies that pass through Pakistan en route to Afghanistan over the weekend to protest the strikes.

Some of the missile victims were militants loyal to Hafiz Gul Bahadar, a commander known to stage attacks against foreign troops in Afghanistan, but two women and five children also were killed, the officials said. There was no immediate way to verify that information independently because access to the border area is forbidden.

The U.S. has been firing missiles into the border region regularly for 2½ years now, but does not formally acknowledge the CIA-run program. U.S. officials rarely comment on specific strikes, but have said in general terms that they accurately hit militants.

Austrian authorities reveal find of buried treasure

VIENNA — A man turning dirt in his backyard stumbled onto buried treasure — hundreds of pieces of centuries-old jewelry and other precious objects that Austrian authorities described Friday as a fairy-tale find.

Austria’s department in charge of national antiquities said the trove consists of more than 200 rings, brooches, ornate belt buckles, gold-plated silver plates and other pieces or fragments, many encrusted with pearls, fossilized coral and other ornaments. It says the objects are about 650 years old and are being evaluated for their provenance and worth.

While not assigning a monetary value to the buried bling, the enthusiastic language from the normally staid Federal Office for Memorials reflected the significance it attached to the discovery.

“Fairy tales still exist!” said its statement. “Private individual finds sensational treasure in garden.”

It described the ornaments as “one of the qualitatively most significant discoveries of medieval treasure in Austria.”

The Austria Press Agency cited memorials office employee Karin Derler as saying the man came across the “breathtaking” objects years ago while digging in his backyard to expand a small pond.

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