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Lawyer: Afghan Suspect Was Upset About Comrade's Injury

VOA News March 16, 2012

The civilian lawyer for the U.S. soldier accused of carrying out a deadly shooting rampage in Afghanistan says his client was likely suffering from stress after witnessing the grave injury of one of his fellow soldiers.

Attorney John Henry Browne says the 38-year-old staff sergeant saw one of his comrades get his leg blown off a day before the massacre of 16 Afghan civilians in Kandahar province.

Browne says his client was also unhappy with his assignment to a fourth tour of duty in a war zone. The solider had served three tours in Iraq where he suffered a head injury and lost part of his foot. The lawyer says the soldier was told he would not be deployed to Afghanistan, but that changed "literally overnight."

The soldier who has not yet been named or charged, was flown out of Afghanistan to Kuwait late Wednesday. U.S. Lieutenant General Curtis Scaparotti, the deputy commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said the suspect was moved to ensure "both proper pre-trial confinement and access to legal services."

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta visited Afghanistan this week and the killing, allegedly carried out by the U.S. soldier, was the focus of talks with Afghan officials.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai called on NATO forces to pull back from Afghan villages and relocate their bases in the wake of the incident.

Karzai also told Panetta that everything must be done to prevent incidents such as the shooting spree in the future. The U.S. defense secretary said he promised the Afghan president that the gunman would be brought to justice.

On Friday, U.S. military officials said a top U.S. commander in Afghanistan was in the path of an attack that coincided with Panetta's arrival in Afghanistan. They had initially downplayed the incident.

Earlier officials said an Afghan stole a vehicle and drove it onto a runway ramp. Officials said the driver was aiming for a group of U.S. soldiers at the airstrip for Panetta's arrival, but crashed into a ditch before emerging from the vehicle in flames.

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