U.S. News

FBI investigating allegations of assault of U.S. service member by Afghan evacuees

By Danielle Haynes   |   Sept. 25, 2021 at 11:29 AM
The Dona Ana Range Complex facilities near Fort Bliss, N.M., are housing thousands of Afghan evacuees. File Photo by Spc. Elijah Ingram/U.S. Army/UPI

Sept. 25 (UPI) -- The FBI has launched an investigation into an alleged assault on a female U.S. service member by multiple male Afghan evacuees at a New Mexico refugee camp, U.S. military officials said.

In a statement to The Hill and KTSM-TV in El Paso, Texas, the 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss said the service member reported she was assaulted Sunday at the Doña Ana Complex. Fort Bliss spans both Texas and New Mexico, with the Doña Ana Complex located in New Mexico.

"We take the allegation seriously and appropriately referred the matter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation," the division said. "The safety and well-being of our service members, as well as all of those on our installations, is paramount.

"We immediately provided appropriate care, counseling and support to the service member. Task Force-Bliss is also implementing additional security measures to include increased health and safety patrols, additional lighting and enforcement of the buddy system at the Doña Ana Complex."

Thousands of Afghan evacuees have been housed at temporary military installations in the United States after they were airlifted out of Kabul amid the Taliban's takeover the country in August. The takeover came as the United States began withdrawing all its troops from the country nearly 20 years after going to war there.

Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-N.M., whose congressional district includes the Doña Ana Complex, criticized the Biden administration for its handling of Afghan evacuees and the assault allegation.

"My prayers are with the courageous soldier and her family," she tweeted. "This is yet another tragic failure in the vetting process for Afghan nationals. The American people deserve answers."