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US soldier accused of Afghan massacre did not want to return to frontline


The American staff sergeant accused of shooting dead 16 Afghan villagers had   not wanted to return to the frontline, his lawyer has said.
The 38-year-old father-of-two, from the Joint Base Lewis-McChord base in   Washington, had been drinking with two other soldiers before wandering 500   yards from his base in Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan,   and gunning down 16 villagers, the official said.

The soldier was suffering from stress over a fourth deployment and was under   pressure from his wife, it was claimed. His lawyer John Henry Browne said he   had been reluctant to return to the frontline.

He said soldiers in the suspect’s camp had been very upset that somebody in   their unit had their leg blown off the day before the rampage.

Browne said his client is highly decorated, had twice been injured during   tours in Iraq and was reluctant to leave on his fourth deployment. But he   denied reports suggesting that the soldier had alcohol or marital problems.

Questions were raised earlier this week about the staff sergeant’s mental   stability after it emerged that he was suffering from a head trauma from a   roadside bomb in Iraq and another injury to his leg, where surgeons had to   remove part of his foot.

His lawyer John Henry Browne would not confirm whether the staff sergeant had   psychological or mental health issues but said claims he had marital issues   were “hogwash” and “a bunch of nonsense”.

“He’s one of our boys and we need to treat him fairly,” he added.

The soldier, who is originally from the Midwest, was deployed last December   with the 3rd Stryker Brigade, and on Feb 1 was attached to a “village   stability operation.”

His lawyer described him as highly decorated and said he had once been   nominated for a Bronze Star, which he did not receive.

The soldier was worried about being deployed a fourth time and didn’t hold any   animosity towards Muslims, his lawyer added.

“He wasn’t thrilled about going on another deployment,” said the   lawyer, John Henry Browne. “He was told he wasn’t going back, and then   he was told he was going.”

The suspect was “very quiet” when he spoke to him by phone and asked   Mr Browne to send his love to his family, the lawyer said.

Mr Browne is known for representing Colton Harris-Moore, the so-called “Barefoot   Bandit,” who was found guilty of a string of audacious crimes across   the United States and sentenced in January to six and a half years in   prison. He was involved in the defence of Ted Bundy, the American serial   killer.

The soldier, who has not been formally charged, was flown to an American   detention site in Kuwait yesterday, to the fury of dozens of Afghans who   have demanded he face trial in Afghanistan.

The Army has declined to name the staff sergeant further inflaming the issue.

Military officials are expected to transfer the staff sergeant to the United   States later today after diplomatic outcry from the Kuwaitis, who were not   told in advance that the soldier was being moved.

“When they learned about it, the Kuwaitis blew a gasket and wanted him out of   there,” the official said.

The staff sergeant’s wife and two children, aged three and four, were moved   from their home to the Joint Base Lewis McChord in Washington in   anticipation of the man’s name being released.

If convicted, the soldier could face the death penalty under US military law.

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