Published online 26 November 2008 | Nature 456, 435 (2008) | doi:10.1038/456435a

News in Brief

Social-science programme hit by murder charge

A civilian employee of the US Army's highly controversial 'Human Terrain' social-science programme has been charged with second-degree murder.

Although originally proposed as a means of improving relations between the military and locals in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Human Terrain programme has become mired in arguments about how much academics should be assisting military operations (see Nature 455, 583–585; 2008).

According to an affidavit filed in a Virginia court, American Don Michael Ayala shot Afghani civilian Abdul Salam in the head while on patrol with the US Army in Afghanistan. At the time, Salam was restrained and handcuffed after attacking and badly injuring Paula Loyd, another member of the Human Terrain Team. Two Human Terrain researchers have died this year: Michael Bhatia in Afghanistan in May, and Nicole Suveges in Iraq in June. 

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