Mother of Marine killed in Afghanistan demands answers amid Russian bounty allegations

As allegations of Russian bounties for killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan have come into the spotlight, so have the April 2019 deaths of three Marines near Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

Now, the mother of one of the three Marines killed is calling for a “thorough investigation” and for those responsible to be held accountable, CNBC reported Monday.

The three Marines ― Staff Sgt. Christopher Slutman, 43, of Newark, Delaware; Cpl. Robert A. Hendriks, 25, of Locust Valley, New York; and Sgt. Benjamin S. Hines, 31, of York, Pennsylvania; all members of the 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve ― were returning to Bagram when their armored vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb blast, Marine Corps Times previously reported.

“The parties who are responsible should be held accountable, if that’s even possible,” Felicia Arculeo, the mother of Hendriks, told CNBC.

An Afghan security force check the site a day after an an attack near the Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul, Afghanistan, April 9. (Rahmat Gul/AP)

Last week The New York Times broke the story indicating that U.S. intelligence had found evidence of Russian officials offering bounties to Taliban-linked militants on U.S. troops deployed to Afghanistan.

U.S. House lawmakers demanded their own emergency briefings on the bounties over the weekend, with the intent to discover exactly how much President Donald Trump knew about the Russian allegations.

White House officials claimed the president did not know about the potential bounty operations as the intelligence was still being disputed.

But on Tuesday top Democrats argued those claims, saying the reports had been presented to him.

Arculeo told CNBC she was “pretty upset” when she heard the news that Russia may have provided financial incentives for militants to kill her son.

“Absolutely, that should be investigated,” she said.

Arculeo was joined in her demand for answers by Shawn Gregoire, the mother of Army paratrooper Spc. Michael Isaiah Nance, who was killed July 2019 by an Afghan soldier.

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

“To date, DoD (Department of Defense) has no corroborating evidence to validate the recent allegations found in open-source reports,” Chief Pentagon Spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told Marine Corps Times in a Tuesday email. “Regardless, we always take the safety and security of our forces in Afghanistan – and around the world – most seriously and therefore continuously adopt measures to prevent harm from potential threats.”

Neither Gregoire or Arculeo were contacted by U.S. intelligence or the Pentagon about the possible bounty allegations, they said, both finding out about the possible link through media reports.

“Just angry that I had to find out there’s a possible link … through the media,” Gregoire told CNBC. She has since contacted Illinois Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth for answers.

Though Arculeo said she hopes justice comes to whoever is responsible for her son’s death, she told CNBC she does not know what that looks like.

“At the end of the day, my son is still gone,” she told CNBC. “He’s still not coming home.”

Marine Corps Times reached out to the family of all three Marines killed in that incident and has not received a response.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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