Afghan Massacre Suspect Identified, Arrives at Kansas Base

The U.S. Army identified the soldier who is accused of killing 16 villagers in Afghanistan province this week.

Staff Sgt. Robert Bales (L), 1st platoon sergeant, Blackhorse Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, is seen during an exercise at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California, in this August 23, 2011. Photo: Spc. Ryan Hallock, 28th Public Affairs/U.S. Army

The U.S. soldier accused of going on a rampage and killing 16 Afghan civilians in their homes, identified as Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, and is said he arrived on Friday at a Kansas base where he will be held in a solitary cell.

TStaff Sgt. Robert Bales, 38, a father of two children who had been injured twice in combat over the course of four deployments and had, his lawyer said, an exemplary military record is implemented in the massacre in Afghan.

“The Army confirms that Staff Sergeant Robert Bales was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Bales is being held in pre-trial confinement,” the Army said in a statement.

The soldier, whose military unit is in south of Tacoma, Washington, had been held in Kuwait after he was flown out of Afghanistan on Wednesday.

According to Reuters, Bales has not yet been charged. He is expected to face justice under U.S. military rules, but it is not clear whether any trial would take place.

“I would assume he’ll be charged pretty fast,” said Jeffrey Lustick, a defense attorney and former Air Force military prosecutor and defense attorney in Bellingham, Washington.

Photos of the soldier, wearing camouflage and battle gear, were published in an article about training for soldiers on a web publication linked to Fort Irwin, a California military base. The site reported that the photos were taken in August.

Bales’ alleged murderous rage is in stark contrast to what he said after a fierce battle in Zarqa, Iraq, in 2007.

“I’ve never been more proud to be a part of this unit than that day for the simple fact that we discriminated between the bad guys and the noncombatants and then afterward we ended up helping the people that three or four hours before were trying to kill us,” he told Fort Lewis’ Northwest Guardian.

“I think that’s the real difference between being an American as opposed to being a bad guy, someone who puts his family in harm’s way like that,” Bales added. He was first deployed in November 2003 when his unit spent a year in Mosul, Iraq.

In June 2006 he and his unit were sent back to Iraq and their year-long deployment was given a three month extension until September 2007. During that time, he saw duty in Mosul in the north, Bagdad when the city was pressed by militants, and then to Baquba where his unit took major casualties.

His final Iraq deployment was from September 2009 to September 2010 in Diyala province, which was also a hotbed of insurgent activity. In December 2011, Bales was ordered to Afghanistan.

According to Bales’ Seattle-based lawyer, John Henry Browne, Bales’ wife and two children have been moved to Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Seattle to be protected.

“I think it’s of interest that we have a soldier who has an exemplary record, a decorated soldier who was injured in Iraq, to his brain and to his body and then despite that was sent back,” the attorney said.

The officials revealed the suspect will be held in “special housing in his own cell” in the Fort Leavenworth detention center, which it described as a “mediumminimum custody facility.”

The Baleses’ off-white, spacious wood home sat dark on Friday night in a neighborhood now filled with news media in the town of Bonney Lake east of Tacoma.

Few neighbors were present. At one house was a handwritten sign addressed to media was posted on the door, reading: “We don’t know Bales, so don’t ask.”

Beau Britt, who lives nearby, said he did not know Bales or his family. “It’s not the sort of area where you just walk up to a house and start talking to them,” Britt said.

One more neighbor Kasie Holland, whose children regularly played with Sgt Bales’ family, said he was shocked: “My reaction is that I’m shocked. I can’t believe it was him. There were no signs. It’s really sad. I don’t want to believe that he did it.”

Afghan President Hamid Karzai who reacted angrily to the killings, urged the U.S. to pull back its troops from village areas and allow Afghan security forces to take the lead in an effort to reduce civilian deaths.

As BBC writes, the president added the problem of civilian casualties at the hands of NATO forces had “gone on for too long”. “This form of activity, this behaviour cannot be tolerated. It’s past, past, past the time,” Mr Karzai told reporters at the presidential palace in Kabul.

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