Monday, 24 June

Keep your condolences; give us answers, justice – Distraught family of slain Ghanaian-American soldier tells US Army

Pvt. Latifu was killed by another soldier at Fort Rucker

The family of the slain Ghanaian-American soldier is demanding answers from the US army high command on the true cause of death of Pvt. Abdul-Muksit Nafsudeen Latifu.

The family says the army has been anything but forthcoming and transparent with information regarding the “cruel and unfortunate” murder of the soldier who was training to serve his country.

The family maintains the posturing of the army is evident in the way information reaches them since the January 10 incident that left Pvt. Latifu deceased under strange circumstances.

Military officials claim the 21-year-old soldier with Ghanaian roots was killed in a supposed “altercation with another soldier” at the Alabama Army post, Fort Rucker, where he was training to become an army air traffic control operator.

But the scars on his head and face together with other defensive wounds on his body, show he was hit with an entrenching tool, which can also be used as an axe by the military, more than eight times.

“My brother does not fight,” Mohammed Latifu, brother of the late Pvt Latifu, said in an interview with News 12, a local channel in New York.

“I have never seen my brother fight his whole 20 years of life that I have known him… for you to say he got into an altercation with somebody, and he suffered a head injury and later pronounced dead at the hospital, that is some BS."

He said the family is "still stuck" without answers 13 days after his brother's murder.

News about his demise was first published on local websites in Alabama as early as 11:30 am CST, even though his next-of-kin was officially called four hours later to report that he had been hospitalised and in critical condition, a situation the family feels suspicious about.

“When something of this kind happens, especially in a military base, the press is the last resort to share information. What was the hurry in publishing news of an altercation; which turns out to be a lie even before calling the family? What do they intend hiding with that cooked story?”, a clearly enraged friend questioned.  

The identity of the murderer was also first released to the press and social media hours after the family questioned why they were being kept in the dark before his body was released to them in New York.

The killer soldier, Pvt. Brian Jones Jr., is said to be in custody and will remain so by order of a military magistrate following a pretrial confinement hearing in connection with the killing.

There are no signs of injuries or bruises suffered by Pvt. Brian to support the military’s narrative of an “altercation”.

“His leaders said nothing suggests that they fought before it happened. It was a pre-meditated murder”, his sister, Baraka Abdullah, said.

The deceased soldier has been buried in accordance with Islamic tradition at the Forest Green Park Cemetery in New Jersey.

But the family wants answers to get closure on the brutal murder of the 21-year-old promising son and soldier.

“Right now, I’m stuck at the point where I feel like he’s not gone; I keep feeling like he is still here”, the visibly sorrowful sister added.  

The case is expected to proceed under the Uniform Code of Military Justice in accordance with the Manual for Courts-Martial.

However, events and the posturing of the military, subsequent to the incident, leave the family with more questions about the transparency and fairness of the trials.

“We get to put him to rest, but we still want answers. The family is still struck; my father is here but he is in the car. He can’t even come to the cameras because it’s a heart-breaking tragedy”, Muhammed Latifu said at the funeral.

Another member of the family, Al-haj Mohammed Murtala, said: “We’re still in darkness, we haven’t been properly informed as to what really transpired”.

“We need to get down to the root of whatever transpired”, he added.  

His comments follow similar demands for justice by loved ones and people across different communities and races, including veteran associations.   

The military, through Maj. Gen. Michael McCurry, the commander of Fort Rucker, extended condolences to Pvt. Latifu's family, friends and community, but the family says, “You can keep your condolences, we don’t care about that, we want justice!”.

Pvt. Latifu was a trainee in the army’s Advanced Individual Training programme at Fort Rucker where he was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 13th Aviation Regiment, 1st Aviation Brigade.