Afghan Massacre Suspect Identified As US Army Staff Sergeant: Reports

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The latest attack follows a string of similar bombings across the country, raising fears the Taliban is ramping up attacks on coalition forces ahead of the annual summer fighting season.
The latest attack follows a string of similar bombings across the country, raising fears the Taliban is ramping up attacks on coalition forces ahead of the annual summer fighting season.

The American soldier alleged to have carried out the massacre of 16 civilians in Afghanistan last weekend -- an event that has rocked already-shaky relations between the two countries -- was identified as U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales on Friday, according to Reuters.

The U.S. official who made the identification declined to provide additional details about Bales, Reuters reported, while noting the 38-year-old staff sergeant is suspected of leaving his base in Afghanistan's Kandahar province on Sunday and gunning down 16 villagers: four men, three women, and nine children.

Bales has not yet been charged in connection with the incident.

Earlier, the soldier's attorney said his client was scheduled to arrive on Friday at the Fort Leavenworth army base in Kansas, where he will be held in maximum security, Reuters said.

The lawyer, John Henry Browne, confirmed his client's identity, according to The Associated Press, which noted Bales' hometown is Lake Tapps, Wash.

Kassie Holland, who lives next door to Bales, told AP she frequently saw him playing with his two children. My reaction is that I'm shocked, she said. 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.

Military officials said Bales was trained as a sniper and that he was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, which is headquartered at Joint Base Lewis-McChord outside Tacoma, Wash., and had been dispatched to Iraq three times since 2003, AP reported.

Bales completed 20 hours of anger-management counseling after a 2002 arrest at a Tacoma hotel for investigation of assault, a case involving a woman who was not his wife, according to attorney Browne, AP said. Court records indicate that Bales pleaded not guilty, that he underwent the anger-management treatment, and that the case was dismissed, AP said.

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

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