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A U.S. soldier and the Afghan soldier who killed him

The man who turned his gun on Green Beret Andrew Britton-Mihalo of Simi Valley was also part of an elite corps. The tragedy is part of a worrisome trend in Afghanistan.

May 12, 2012|By Laura King and Steve Chawkins, Los Angeles Times

"He was the world to me," Carranza said. "I don't know what was in the heart of the man who killed my brother. I don't know what he was seeking. Those are things I'm going to leave to a higher power. If I dwell on it, I let it take over."

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More than 700 people have joined a Facebook page Britton-Mihalo's friends started in his memory, posting photos of a trip Andrew took to Disneyland, reminiscences of his school days, Ronald Reagan quotes about freedom, shots of fun times with the woman now known as Sgt. Jesse Britton.

At his old school, students observed a moment of silence to mark his death.

"In high school, we create a bubble; we try to keep them young and carefree for a few years," said Principal Deborah Salgado. "Then we send them out into an overly serious world."

In accordance with his family's wishes, Andrew Britton-Mihalo is to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery on May 25. Thirty days later, he would have celebrated his 26th birthday.

Back in Afghanistan, hundreds of mourners trekked from nearby villages for Zakirullah's funeral six days after his death. Wails rang out as he was carried to a forlorn-looking cemetery less than a mile from the family home, but there was little talk of his final act. Some of those in attendance did not know how he died; others clearly felt the circumstances were best buried with him.

It had fallen to Haji Naamdaar to identify and claim Zakirullah's corpse. In the chill of the morgue, the body lay swathed, grievous wounds hidden. All Naamdaar could see was Zakirullah's face. Gazing down at it, he saw neither rage nor fear written on the features of his young nephew.

"I thought he might look different," he said. "But he looked only like himself."

laura.king@latimes.com

steve.chawkins@latimes.com

King reported from Kabul and Chawkins from Simi Valley. Special correspondent Hashmat Baktash in Kabul contributed to this report.

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