Contractor Charged With Murder in Afghan's Death

By Jerry Markon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 20, 2008

A defense contractor who once protected top foreign leaders was charged yesterday with second-degree murder in the shooting of an Afghan civilian who had attacked one of his colleagues with a flammable liquid during a routine patrol.

Don M. Ayala, 46, of New Orleans was charged in U.S. District Court in Alexandria in the Nov. 4 shooting. Court documents said he works in Afghanistan for Rockville-based BAE Systems, but he formerly provided personal security to the Iraqi prime minister and the Afghan president.

Ayala and a fellow contractor, Paula Loyd, were accompanying a U.S. Army platoon on a walking patrol in the Afghan village of Chehel Gazi when they encountered Abdul Salam, the Afghan citizen. Salam lit a container of flammable liquid and threw it on Loyd, setting her on fire and causing second- and third-degree burns over about 60 percent of her body, court documents said.

Salam tried to run but was restrained, while Ayala pointed a pistol at his head, the document said. About 10 minutes later, a soldier informed Ayala and his colleagues that Loyd was badly burned.

Ayala then pushed his pistol against Salam's head and shot him, killing him instantly, according to court documents, which cite extensive accounts from soldiers who witnessed the incident.

A lawyer for Ayala, John Tranberg, declined to comment. A spokesman for BAE Systems declined to comment.

Court documents said Ayala began working for BAE on Sept. 1 and formerly was in the U.S. Army. He also provided personal security for the Iraqi and Afghan leaders while working for "unknown" companies, the documents said.

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