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Injured Utah Soldier Wins Damages Against Man for Afghanistan Attack



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A Utah soldier blinded in one eye during a skirmish in Afghanistan has been awarded part of a multimillion dollar default judgment against a man whose teenage son is charged with taking part in the attack.

Sgt. Layne Morris, of West Jordan, and the family of medic Christopher Speer, who was killed in the 2002 gunbattle, were awarded $102.6 million in the civil suit. It may be difficult for Morris to collect, however, because the father's assets are unknown.

U.S. District Judge Paul Cassell said in his ruling Friday that the lawsuit may be the first filed by an American soldier against terrorists under the Patriot Act.

Soldiers serving overseas cannot usually identify their attackers, making it difficult to hold them responsible for injuries under the Patriot Act. But Cassell wrote in his ruling that the attacker's identity wasn't a barrier in this case.

Morris, who served with the 19th Special Forces, cited news reports -- including interviews with his attacker's immediate family -- indicating that Omar Khadr, then 15, had wounded him and killed Speer. The ruling cited similar evidence that the boy's father, Ahmad Sa'id Khadr, was linked to al-Qaida and trained his son to attack American targets.

Morris and Speer were attacked while searching for foreign fighters in a remote Afghanistan village. The terrorists threw grenades at the soldiers, who were outside the compound's walls, and shot at them with automatic weapons. Shrapnel severed the optic nerve in Morris' right eye.

Soldiers rushed the compound, wounding the boy and killing all other insurgents. Omar Khadr is charged with throwing another grenade that killed Speer. He was arrested and is being held at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay.

In November, the U.S. government charged the boy with murder, attempted murder, conspiracy and aiding the enemy. The Canadian government has protested the boy's imprisonment, because he is a minor.

Cassell said the Patriot Act extends civil liability for acts of terrorism, including attacks on foreign soil.

Morris has said he will take no money until he is assured that Speer's widow and two children are provided for. Their attorney, Dennis Flynn, said the U.S. and Canadian governments have frozen the assets of the elder Khadr.

The ruling said the younger Khadr was 4 years old when his family moved from Canada to Pakistan, where his father co-founded a humanitarian relief organization that supported al-Qaida terrorist training camps. The boy returned to Canada in 1994, where he attended school for one year while his father was imprisoned in Pakistan on charges of funding the bombing of the Egyptian Embassy in Pakistan, the court said.

The next year the family allegedly traveled throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan, meeting al-Qaida leaders, including Osama bin Laden, Ayman Al Zawahiri, Muhammad Atef and Saif al Adel, as well as visiting terrorist training camps and guest houses, according to court documents. It is believed the father was killed in a firefight in Pakistan.

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Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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