Two Afghan civilians wounded by gunfire from a U.S. Marine special operations unit told a panel investigating the incident Tuesday that they had no weapons and were not attacking the unit's convoy.
An Army investigation concluded last year that up to 19 civilians died in the shootings, but attorneys for two Marine officers involved argue the death toll was lower.
The civilians testified by video link from Afghanistan before a Court of Inquiry, a rarely used administrative fact-finding panel investigating the March 4 incident along a 10-mile stretch of road in Nangarhar province.
Several Marines have told the court they saw people firing at their unit after a minivan packed with explosives detonated near the second Humvee in their convoy. But the Afghan witnesses said Tuesday they did not hear the bombing or see an explosion and were attacked by the Marines without cause.
Two Marines investigated
The Court of Inquiry is focusing on two officers involved in the shootings: the special operations unit's commander, 38-year-old Maj. Fred C. Galvin, and a platoon leader, Capt. Vincent J. Noble, 29. The court could recommend that charges be filed.
Citing witness accounts, Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission concluded that the Marines reacted to the car bombing by firing indiscriminately at pedestrians and people in cars, buses and taxis in six different locations along the stretch of roadway.