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Parents of US troops killed in Afghanistan want investigation of Russian bounties

SPC Michael Isaiah Nance, left (U.S. Army/Released), Cpl. Robert A. Hendriks (U.S. Marine Corps/Released)
June 30, 2020

U.S. Marine Cpl. Robert Hendriks was killed in an improvised explosive device (IED) attack in Bagram, Afghanistan on April 8, 2019, along with two other Marines. Now, with new reports circulating that Russian spies paid bounties to the Taliban to kill U.S. troops, Hendriks’ mother wants to know if her son was the target of such a paid killing.

Hendriks’ mother, Felicia Arculeo of Long Island, N.Y. said in a statement to CNBC News, that “the parties who are responsible should be held accountable, if that’s even possible.”

Arculeo said she last spoke to U.S. intelligence and military officials on Friday, the same day reports emerged claiming Russia’s GRU intelligence service had offered bounties to Taliban fighters to kill U.S. troops.

“I just happened to randomly see” the news about the report, Arculeo said. “I got pretty upset.”

The reports, first circulated by The New York Times, further suggested Trump had been briefed about the intelligence as early as March of this year, but had not determined a course of action on the issue.

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On whether the issue should be investigated further despite Trump’s denial he knew about the report, Arculeo told CNBC, “absolutely, that should be investigated.”

In a separate interview with The Times, Frank Hendriks, Robert’s father and Arculeo’s former spouse, said “if it comes out as true” that his son was the target of a Russian bounty, “obviously the heartache would be terrible.”

“I am a Republican and I am a Trump supporter,” Hendriks told the Times. “But there would be no way he didn’t know about it if Russians were paying off these cowards like mafia payoff hit men. I would expect the government to have 1,000 percent support behind these warriors.”

Shawn Gregoire, the mother of another slain U.S. service member Army paratrooper Spc. Michael Isaiah Nance, also called for answers regarding the death of her son. Nance was killed by an Afghan soldier in Tarin Kowt in an insider attack on July 29, 2019.

No reports have linked Nance’s death to a Russian bounty payment, but the Afghan soldier in the attack was captured after the shooting. Gregoire told CNBC she has yet to receive an after-action report following her son’s death and the latest news has only raised more questions in her mind.

“I really want someone to get to the bottom of this,” Gregoire said.

A Monday report by The Associated Press suggests a different timeline about when Trump could have known about the potential insider, suggesting the White House had the intelligence as early as March 2019, months before Nance’s death. Also on Monday, Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) raised the possibility the Russian bounty claims may have existed in a written report for some time, but that intelligence officials chose not to brief the president due to a lack of corroborating information.

Gregoire said she saw the AP report but said “even if [Trump] was not briefed, what’s happening now?”