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Mom of Marine killed in Afghanistan wants investigation claim Russians paid Taliban kill US soldiers

30 Jun 2020 Daily Mail Online

Cpl. Robert Hendriks died in an April 2019 attack at Bagram Air Field days before he was due to return home 

Cpl. Robert Hendriks, 25, died during an attack in Afghanistan in April 2019 in a car bomb attack days before he was due to return home to the US, but his mother is now calling for an investigation into his death, following revelations that Russia may have been paying Taliban fighters to kill American soldiers.

Felicia Arculeo has said she wants to see thorough investigation launched after the New York Times reported American intelligence agencies believe a Russian intelligence unit was offering cash to Islamist fighters if they took the lives of U.S. servicemen.  

'The parties who are responsible should be held accountable, if that's even possible,' Arculeo said to CNBC.  

'I just happened to randomly see' the news about the report. I got pretty upset,' she said.

Cpl. Robert Hendricks is pictured hugging his mother Felicia Arculeo

Sgt. Benjamin S. Hines, 31, (left) and Staff Sgt. Christopher K.A. Slutman, 43, (right) were  also killed in the bomb attack in April 2019

Cpl. Robert Hendriks died during an attack in Afghanistan in April 2019 and now his mother is calling for an investigation into his death

Hendriks, 25, along with two other Marines, Sgt. Benjamin Hines, 31, and 43-year-old Staff Sgt. Christopher Slutman who were with the 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division were killed by a car bomb at Bagram Air Field.

The Taliban had originally claimed responsibility for the attack on Twitter, but now there is a suggestion that perhaps those responsible were being paid by a foreign government for their murders. 

So far Arcuelo from Long Island, New York says she has not been spoken to by U.S. intelligence or military officials since the news broke. 

The Times noted that President Trump had been told of the possible link between Russia and the Taliban but has not yet decided how to respond.  

The vehicles were on their way back to Bagram Airfield – the largest US military installation in Afghanistan. The Taliban had claimed responsibility for the attack on Twitter. The site of the car bomb attack is pictured 

Officials said the intelligence community has been investigating the April 2019 attack on an American convoy that killed three US Marines and wounded three other US service members and an Afghan contractor after a car was rigged with explosives and detonated near their armored vehicles, to see if it could be potentially linked to the Russian bounties. The site of the car bomb above on April 9, 2019

Felicia Arculeo, the mother of a Marine killed last year in Afghanistan wants to see an investigation into reports her son may have been killed by Taliban fighters

On Sunday, the president tweeted: 'Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or to Vice President Mike Pence.'   

Arculeo has said that despite not having verification from the White House, the claim should still be looked into. 

'Absolutely, that should be investigated,' she said. '[But] at the end of the day, my son is still gone. He's still not coming home.' 

White House officials, including press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, have so far offered a guarded response to whether Trump was informed about the bombshell claim.

On Monday she declined to answer directly whether it was in the Presidential Daily Brief, the printed compendium which he is given but which he has repeatedly been accused of failing to read, most recently in John Bolton's excoriating memoir.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Monday that President Donald Trump was never briefed on reports that Russia offered to pay members of the Taliban to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan because the intelligence was not 'verified' and there was 'dissent' in the intelligence community over its accuracy

'I have no further details on the president’s private correspondence,' she said.

Cpl. Robert Hendricks pictured while on tour

One source told CNN that the assessment that Russia had offered bounties in Afghanistan was backed up by 'several pieces of information.'

Those included signals intelligence - material obtained by electronic monitoring of communications - and evidence from interrogating Taliban detainees.

The source told the network that other information did not corroborate the claim, but said: 'This was a big deal. When it's about US troops you go after it 100%, with everything you got.'

The uncertainty over whether the assessment was correct was echoed at the White House by McEnany who said on Monday that Trump was never briefed on the reports because the intelligence was not 'verified' and there was 'dissent' in the intelligence community over its accuracy.

'There was not a consensus among the intelligence community and in fact there were dissenting opinions and it would not be elevated to the president until it was verified,' she said at her press briefing.

President Donald Trump has denied that he was made aware of an intelligence report that Russia secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill American troops in Afghanistan 

She would not say who in the intelligence community dissented on the report.

'I am telling you there is no consensus in the intelligence community and the dissenting opinions from some in the intelligence community exist,' she said.

While it's not clear how many American or coalition troops from other countries were killed or targeted in the Russian-backed operation, fatalities are still believed to have taken place, according to intelligence from U.S. military interrogations of captured militants in recent months.

U.S. forces in Afghanistan suffered a total of 10 deaths from hostile gunfire or improvised bombs in 2018, and 16 in 2019. Two have been killed in 2020.

In each of those years some service members were killed in what's known as 'green on blue', hostile attacks launched by members of Afghan security forces, which are believed to be at times infiltrated by the Taliban.

U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan in 2019 and 2020 

Army Sgt. Cameron A. Meddock, 26, died at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany from small-arms fire wounds he received in Badghis province in northwest Afghanistan, Jan. 17, 2019

Army Sgt. 1st Class Joshua 'Zach' Beale, 32, was killed by small-arms fire in southern Uruzgan province, Jan. 22

Army Sgt. 1st Class Will D. Lindsay, 33, of Cortez, Colo., died after being wounded during combat in northern Kunduz province, March 22

Army Sgt. Joseph P. Collette, 29, of Lancaster, Ohio, died of wounds sustained in combat operations in northern Kunduz province, March 22

Marine Sgt. Robert A. Hendriks, 25, was one of three Marines killed by a car bomb outside Bagram Airfield, April 8

Marine Staff Sgt. Benjamin S. Hines, 31, of York, Pa., died in a car bomb explosion outside Bagram Airfield, April 8

Marine Staff Sgt. Christopher K.A. Slutman, 43, was killed by a car bomb outside Bagram Airfield, April 8

Army Spc. Miguel L. Holmes, 22, died in eastern Nangarhar province from wounds sustained in a noncombat incident, May 6

Army Sgt. James G. Johnston, 24, was killed by small-arms fire in southern Uruzgan province, June 25

Army Master Sgt. Micheal B. Riley, 32, was killed by small-arms fire in southern Uruzgan province, June 25

Army Sgt. 1st Class Elliott J. Robbins, 31, a Green Beret medical sergeant from Utah, died from noncombat injuries in southern Helmand province, June 30

Army Sgt. Maj. James 'Ryan' Sartor, 40, died from injuries sustained by enemy fire in northern Faryab province, July 13

Army Spc. Michael Isaiah Nance, 24, of Chicago, died after being shot by an Afghan soldier at a military camp in southern Uruzgan province in a 'green on blue', July 29

Army Pfc. Brandon Jay Kreischer, 20, died after an Afghan solider opened fire at a base in southern Uruzgan province in a 'green on blue', July 29

Army Master Sgt. Luis F. DeLeon-Figueroa, 31, was one of two Green Berets killed in northern Faryab province by small-arms fire, Aug. 21

Army Master Sgt. Jose J. Gonzalez, 35, of La Puente, Calif., was killed during a raid alongside Afghan special forces in southern Faryab province, Aug. 21

Army Sgt. 1st Class Dustin Ard, 31, died of wounds received in combat in southern Zabul province, Aug. 29

Army Sgt. 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, 34, from Morovis, Puerto Rico, died in a suicide blast in Kabul, Sept. 5

Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy W. Griffin, 40, was killed by small-arms fire in central Wardak province, Sept. 16

Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kirk Fuchigami Jr., 25, was killed in a helicopter crash in the eastern Logar province, Nov. 20

Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 David C. Knadle, 33, was killed in a helicopter crash, while providing security to ground troops in eastern Logar province, Nov. 20

Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Goble, 33, was killed in a roadside bombing in northern Kunduz province, Dec. 23

Army Staff Sergeant Ian P. McLaughlin, 29, died in an IED attack in Kandahar, Jan 1. 2020

Army Private 1st Class Miguel Villalon, 21, die in an IED attack in Kandahar, Jan. 1

Air Force Lt. Colonel Paul Voss, 46, died in an aircraft crash in the Ghazni province, Jan 27

Air Force Captain Ryan Haneuf, 30, died in an aircraft crash in the Ghazni province, Jan 27

Army Sergeant 1st Class Javier Jaguar Gutierrez, 28, died in a small arms fire 'green on blue' attack in Nangarhar when an Afghan dressed in an Afghan army uniform opened fire, Feb. 8

Army Sergeant 1st Class Antonio Rey, Rodriguez, 28, died in a small arms fire 'green on blue' attack in Nangarhar when an Afghan dressed in an Afghan army uniform opened fire, Feb. 8

Army Specialist Branden Tyrne Kimball, 21, died in Parwan in a non-combat related incident at Bagram Air Force Base that is being investigated, Feb. 12

Army 1st Lt. Trevarius Ravon Bowman, 25, , died in Parwan a non-combat related incident at Bagram Air Force Base that is being investigated, May 19

Source: Stars and Stripes, icasualities.org, Military Times, AP

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