Belfast Telegraph

Home News World

Massacre suspect arrives at US jail

The US soldier accused of gunning down 16 Afghan villagers, including nine children, arrived at a maximum-security military prison.

Staff Sgt Robert Bales, 38, was finally identified last night by a top US official.

The military had earlier declined to name the father of two, who was flown from Kuwait to the jail at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

An air force cargo pulled up to a gate at the end of a commercial terminal at Kansas City International Airport, about an hour from the prison. A convoy of unmarked vehicles then pulled away from the tarmac and out of the airport.

Wearing a Nato forces uniform, Bales was said to have moved through the Afghan villages of Alkozai and Balandi in the early hours of Sunday, barging into homes and opening fire on those inside, then burning some of the bodies. Nine of those killed were children, while 11 of the dead were from a single family.

Military officials say the soldier had received sniper training and was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, of the 2nd Infantry Division, which is based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state and had been dispatched to Iraq three times since 2003.

John Browne, a defence lawyer from Seattle, Washington, said Bales was injured twice while deployed to Iraq. He suffered concussion in a vehicle accident caused by an improvised explosive device, and sustained a battle-related injury requiring surgery that removed part of one foot. Mr Browne also said his client was "highly decorated".

He said when the 11-year veteran heard he was being sent to Afghanistan late last year, he did not want to go. "He wasn't thrilled about going on another deployment," Mr Browne said. "He was told he wasn't going back, and then he was told he was going."

The staff sergeant 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.

The day before Sunday's pre-dawn shooting rampage, Mr Browne said the soldier saw his friend's leg blown off. He said his client's family provided him with that information, which has not been independently verified.


From Belfast Telegraph