(The Center Square) – A female Fort Bliss, Texas, soldier participating in Operation Allies Welcome at the Doña Ana Complex in New Mexico reported being assaulted last week by a group of Afghan men relocated there, KVIA News, ABC-7 El Paso reported. Her assault came after two Afghans were arrested at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin earlier in the week.
Lt. Col. Allie Payne, director of Public Affairs for Fort Bliss and the 1st Armored Division, said the assaulted soldier had received medical care and counseling.
Additional security measures have since been put in place for U.S. military personnel as a result, including increased lighting, safety patrols and enforcing a buddy system. The FBI is investigating the assault.
ABC-7 reports that the soldier was not sexually assaulted. Instead, she was attacked near her car after she arrived to the base for duty.
The Doña Ana Complex in New Mexico is located roughly half an hour north of Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. It’s generally used as a firing range, but was converted into a massive air-conditioned tent complex for incoming Afghans.
"We take the allegation seriously and appropriately referred the matter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation," Payne said in a statement. "The safety and well-being of our service members, as well as all of those on our installations, is paramount. We immediately provided appropriate care, counseling and support to the service member."
FBI El Paso confirmed in a statement that it “received the referral from Fort Bliss and our office is investigating the allegation.”
Roughly 10,000 Afghans are being housed at the New Mexican base until they are resettled throughout the U.S. They arrived after they underwent “a thorough vetting process” overseas, U.S. officials say.
Approximately 37,000 Afghans coming to the U.S. have undergone a “multi-layered screening and vetting process,” including background checks and biometric data to ensure they qualify for entry, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said.
Approximately 400 employees from Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Transportation Security Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Secret Service, are performing the screening and vetting process at several locations overseas.
Vetting is taking place in Bahrain, Germany, Kuwait, Italy, Qatar, Spain and the United Arab Emirates before anyone is brought to the U.S. Those who don’t pass the screening aren’t allowed to board flights to the United States, Mayorkas says.
Bringing Afghans to the U.S. “in a way that’s consistent with our laws and our values,” Mayorkas says, “really does reflect the best of who we are as a country.”
The Texas female service member’s attack came after two Afghans were arrested at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, earlier this week, where 13,000 Afghans are reportedly being housed.
In unrelated cases, two fully vetted Afghan men committed crimes soon after their arrival to Fort McCoy.
Bahrullah Noori, 20, has been charged with attempting to engage in a sexual act with a minor using force against that person, and with three counts of engaging in a sexual act with a minor, with one count alleging the use of force, according to the indictment. The victims were under age 16 and at least four years younger than the defendant.
Mohammad Haroon Imaad, 32, was charged with assaulting his spouse by strangling and suffocating her on September 7, 2021.
Noori and Imaad were charged previously in complaints filed in U.S. District Court, according to an announcement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Wisconsin.
Noori faces a mandatory minimum penalty of 30 years and a maximum of life in federal prison on the charges alleging use of force, and a maximum penalty of 15 years on the other two charges. Imaad faces a maximum penalty of 10 years.