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Female service member assaulted by Afghan evacuees, Army says

A female service member was assaulted by international “evacuees” being housed at Fort Bliss in New Mexico, the Army said in a statement Friday night.

Lt. Col. Allie M. Payne said in the statement the Sept. 19 assault and was carried out “by a small group of male evacuees at the Doña Ana Complex in New Mexico.”

The victim was provided “appropriate care, counseling and support,” he said. The attackers were not described as Afghans, but Payne said the woman was working as part of Operation Allies Welcome, which the U.S. Department of Homeland Security describes as an “effort to resettle Afghan refugees.”

Details about the assault and the extent of the woman’s possible injuries were not released, and Payne did not say whether anyone was arrested.

The Dona Ana Range Complex on Fort Bliss, which houses refugees recently evacuated from Afghanistan, is pictured near Chaparral, New Mexico, on Sept. 2, 2021.Paul Ratje / Reuters file

“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,” Payne said.

The FBI was investigating the attack, he said. An FBI spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for more information.

The Doña Ana Complex is part of Fort Bliss in New Mexico and Texas along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“The safety and well-being of our service members, as well as all of those on our installations, is paramount,” Payne said.

Earlier Friday former Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, the White House coordinator for Operation Allies Welcome, said Afghan evacuees were generally well-vetted. He was not asked about the assault.

“The administration has established a number of strong screening and vetting and public health measures to keep both our citizens and our allies alike as safe as possible,” Markell said during a press call that included Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-New Mexico, disagreed. She said in a statement that the attack was “yet another tragic failure in the vetting process for Afghan nationals brought to America.”

The United States withdrew from Afghanistan Aug. 30, ending an unsuccessful 20-year war meant to snuff out terrorist hideouts and bring democracy to the region. The United States has accepted 64,000 Afghan evacuees, most of whom are said to be “humanitarian parolees.”

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