Robert Bales Said to Be Suspect in Afghan Civilian Shootings
By Tony Capaccio and Gopal Ratnam – Mar 16, 2012 10:57 PM GMT+0000
The suspect in the killings of at least 16 Afghan civilians was identified as U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, according to a U.S. defense official.
The official spoke today on condition of anonymity because charges haven’t been announced. CNN and Fox News identified the suspect earlier.
The suspect was en route to the U.S., according to the Defense Department. An official who declined to be named said the soldier was likely to be taken to the maximum-security military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Women and children were among the victims of the March 11 shootings in two villages in southern Afghanistan. The suspect in the case was previously described by the military as a 38- year-old sniper in the Army’s 2-3 Infantry, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 2nd Infantry Division, who was on his first deployment to Afghanistan and had previously served three tours in Iraq.
The soldier’s Seattle lawyer, John Henry Browne, declined to identify him yesterday, and Browne didn’t immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment today.
Browne described his client at a news conference yesterday as “in general mild-mannered” with “a very strong marriage” and two children.
After sustaining a concussive head injury and losing part of a foot in tours in Iraq, the soldier and his family were disappointed when he was sent to Afghanistan, Browne said.
“It would be fair to say that he and the family were not happy that he was going back,” Browne told reporters yesterday at his office in Seattle, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the soldier’s home station. “The brigade was told that they would not be redeployed.”
A soldier in the same unit in southern Afghanistan had been “gravely injured” a day before the shootings, an incident that affected everyone in the unit, Browne said.