US suspect ID'd in Afghan massacre

2012-03-17 21:04
A senior US official has identified Staff Sgt Robert Bales as the man accused of killing 16 civilians in an attack on Afghan villagers five days ago. (Spc Ryan Hallock, AP/DVIDS)

A senior US official has identified Staff Sgt Robert Bales as the man accused of killing 16 civilians in an attack on Afghan villagers five days ago. (Spc Ryan Hallock, AP/DVIDS) ( Ryan Hallock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

New York - After five days cloaked in military secrecy, the US soldier suspected in a massacre of 16 Afghan civilians has finally been identified, adding a critical detail to the still-sketchy portrait beginning to emerge.

A senior US official says the soldier accused in the killings is Army Staff Sgt Robert Bales.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation into an incident that has roiled relations with Afghanistan.

Bales, who is 38, is a husband and father of two young children and a veteran who was in the midst of his fourth tour in a war zone. But because of a tightly controlled flow of information, many of the details are incomplete and difficult to verify. Most information about the suspect - before he was identified - has come from two camps, each representing particular interests.

There's the US government, almost always represented by the voices of unidentified "senior military officials." On the other side, there's the civilian lawyer, John Henry Browne, a veteran criminal defence attorney from Seattle, near Bales' home base.

Until late on Friday, both had refused to divulge Bales' name, placing sharp limitations on efforts to evaluate the information presented about the soldier - no chance to interview family members, close friends, neighbours or fellow soldiers. And no chance to examine official records.

Even seemingly straightforward information raises questions that are not easily answered, at least for now - such as a possible defence of post-traumatic stress disorder.

For example, the suspect now identified as Bales lost part of one foot because of injuries suffered in Iraq during one of his three tours of duty there, his lawyer said. Browne also said that when the 11-year veteran heard he was being sent to Afghanistan late last year, he did not want to go.

He also said that a day before the rampage through two villages, the soldier saw a comrade's leg blown off.

Booze

The same goes for the possibility alcohol played a role.

On Friday, a senior US defence official said Bales was drinking alcohol in the hours before the attack on Afghan villagers, violating a US military order banning alcohol in war zones. The official discussed the matter on condition of anonymity because charges have not yet been filed.

Browne said his client's family told him they were not aware of any drinking problem - not necessarily a contradiction. Pressed on the issue in interviews with news organizations, Browne said he did not know if his client had been drinking the night of the massacre.

The soldier was being flown Friday to the US military's only maximum-security prison, at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, said a senior defence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of security surrounding the move.

The move to the US does not necessarily mean an announcement of formal criminal charges is imminent, a defence official said.

Browne has said the suspect is originally from the Midwest but now lives near Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state. His children are 3 and 4.

The sergeant's family says they saw no signs of aggression or anger. "They were totally shocked," by accounts of the massacre, Browne said. "He's never said anything antagonistic about Muslims. He's in general very mild-mannered."

Bales, said to have received sniper training, is assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, of the 2nd Infantry Division, which is based at Lewis-McChord and has been dispatched to Iraq three times since 2003, military officials say.

The soldier was injured twice in Iraq, Browne said. A battle-related injury required surgery to remove part of one foot, the lawyer said.

Head injury

But Browne and government officials differ in their portrayal of a second injury, to the soldier's head, in a vehicle accident.

A government official said this week that the accident was not related to combat. But Browne said the man suffered a concussion in an accident caused by an improvised explosive device.

Browne also said his client was "highly decorated," but did not provide any specifics.

When he returned to the Seattle area, the staff sergeant at first thought he would not be required to join his unit when it shipped out for Afghanistan, the lawyer said. His family thought he was done fighting and was counting on him staying home.

Until orders came dispatching him to Afghanistan, he was training to be a military recruiter, Browne said.

"He wasn't thrilled about going on another deployment," Browne said. "He was told he wasn't going back, and then he was told he was going."

Bales arrived in Afghanistan in December. On February 1 he was assigned to a base in the Panjwai District, near Kandahar, to work with a village stability force that pairs special operations troops with villagers to help provide neighbourhood security.

Buddy lost a leg

On Saturday, the day before the shooting spree, Browne said, the soldier saw his friend's leg blown off. Browne said his client's family provided him with that information, which has not been verified.

The other soldier's "leg was blown off, and my client was standing next to him," he said.

Browne said he did not know if his client had been suffering from PTSD, but said it could be an issue at trial if experts believe it's relevant. Experts on PTSD said witnessing the injury of a fellow soldier and the soldier's own previous injuries put him at risk.

"We've known ever since the Vietnam war that the unfortunate phenomenon of abusive violence often closely follows the injury or death of a buddy in combat," said Dr Roger Pitman, a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist who heads the PTSD Research Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital.

"The injury or death of a buddy creates a kind of a blind rage."

- AP
Read more on:    robert bales  |  us  |  afghanistan  |  afghanistan shooting
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
26 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Africa
 

Hottie of the day: Charlotte

Meet our hottie of the day, Charlotte. She feels sexiest after a good workout at the gym!

 
 

Men24.com

This is why guys shouldn’t be in photos
BMW drift battle: M235i vs. speedway bike
Want to start talking dirty?
And this year's Miss Bumbum title goes to...

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 35% off books

Save up to 35% on the latest page-turners. While stocks last. Shop now!

Good Morning, Mr Mandela by Zelda la Grange

Good Morning, Mr Mandela tells the extraordinary story of how a young woman had her life, beliefs, prejudices and everything she once believed in utterly transformed by the greatest man of her time. Now R221. Pre-order now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Enjoy the view because as from tomorrow you are going to need to come back down to earth and join the party. In the meantime use...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.