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African American soldier says noose strung outside barracks

By Zelie Pollon

Santa Fe, New Mexico (Reuters) - Racial slurs and a noose strung up outside his barracks were among the alleged harassment an African American war veteran said he was subjected to while serving in Afghanistan, according to a complaint filed this week.

Specialist Adam Jarrell, the only African American in a unit of 216 soldiers of the New Mexico Army National Guard, told Reuters on Tuesday that his complaints to superiors were not only ignored, but resulted in increased harassment.

"It's dangerous when the only people you can count on are the people hanging nooses outside your room, telling you they hate you because you're black," said Jarrell, 23, a Sheriff's deputy in Hobbs, New Mexico, who has been with the National Guard since 2006. He arrived home in New Mexico a year ago.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico filed the racial discrimination complaint with the federal Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Justice asking for an investigation.

"No one should suffer the kind of racial hatred Specialist Jarrell experienced, least of all someone who is on the front lines of battle," said ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson. "Our military is supposed to maintain a professional, disciplined fighting force. People's lives depend on it. Racism and racially motivated threats have no place in our state's National Guard units."

New Mexico National Guard Lieutenant Colonel Jamison Herrera said they were looking into the complaint and did not know when they could respond to the allegations.

The alleged harassment began after Jarrell reported the physical abuse of two subordinate soldiers by an officer in Afghanistan in 2009, Jarrell said. The officer was informed of the report against military rules, Jarrell said.

After that, Jarrell said he was subjected to increasing torment, including threats of physical violence and racial slurs. The abuse culminated in a noose hanging outside his barracks door, he said.

"That was the last straw," he said.

When he reported the incidents to his commanding officers, they ignored the issue and wrote him up for jumping the chain of command, even though harassment claims are not subject to those rules, Jarrell said.

(Editing by Karen Brooks and Greg McCune)

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