A female service member was assaulted by international “evacuees” being housed in Fort Bliss, New Mexico, the Army said in a statement Friday night.
Lieutenant Colonel Allie M. Payne said in the statement that the assault on September 19 was carried out “by a small group of male evacuees at the Doña Ana complex in New Mexico.”
The victim received “appropriate care, counseling and support,” he said. The attackers were not described as Afghans, but Payne said the woman worked as part of Operation Allies Welcome, which the U.S. Department of Homeland Security describes as an “effort to resettle Afghan refugees.”
Details of the assault and the extent of the woman’s possible injuries were not released, and Payne did not say if anyone was arrested.
“Task Force-Bliss is also implementing additional security measures to include increased health and safety patrols, additional lighting and enforcement of the friendly system at the Doña Ana complex,” Payne said.
The FBI is investigating the attack, he said. An FBI spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for further information.
The Doña Ana Complex is part of Fort Bliss in New Mexico and Texas along the US-Mexico border.
“The safety and well-being of our service members, as well as all those at our installations, is paramount,” Payne said.
Earlier Friday, former Delaware Governor Jack Markell, White House coordinator of Operation Allies Welcome, said Afghan evacuees were generally well-considered. He was not asked about the assault.
“The administration has established a series of strong screening and investigation and public health measures to keep both our citizens and our allies as safe as possible,” Markell said in a press release that included Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
The American rep. Yvette Herrell, R-New Mexico, disagreed. She said in a statement that the attack was “another tragic failure in the investigation process for Afghan nationals brought to America.”
The United States withdrew from Afghanistan on August 30, ending a failed 20-year war aimed at removing terrorists’ hideouts and bringing democracy to the region. The United States has accepted 64,000 Afghan evacuees, most of whom are said to be “humanitarian probationers”.