Afghanistan shootings: Soldier identified by Army UPDATE

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The U.S. soldier being held in the murder of 16 Afghan citizens has been identified by military officials as Staff Sgt. Robert Bales.

UPDATE---Friday March 16, 2012---4:45 p.m ET----Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is the name of the U.S. soldier being held in the wake of 16 civilian deaths in Afghanistan, reports NBC News. He is a veteran of more than 10 years, having done three tours in Iraq and his present assignment in Afghanistan. Bales enlisted in the military in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2011 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Sgt. Robert Bales is a member of the 3rd Stryker Brigade, based out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, south of Tacoma, Washington. His family including a wife and two children live near the base, but for their immediate safety are moving there. His wife is reportedly employed by a company near Seattle. Bales is said to have suffered head trauma during one of his tours and was surprised to learn he would have to fulfill a fourth deployment in a war zone.

UPDATE----Friday March 16, 2012------ The AP is reporting that Afghanistan's President Karzai announced his disgust with the continued civilian deaths and the U.S. decision to move the soldier without consultation with him. "This has been going on for too long." Original story follows:

The soldier who perpetrated the unprovoked killing of 16 civilians, mostly women and children was flown out of Afghanistan to Kuwait and subsequently back to this country for imprisonment. There was an uproar about that move from government officials and citizens of Afghanistan.

While the protestors wanted the soldier tried in their country, the Pentagon had a different idea based on what they claim is the lack of proper facilities to hold him.

The Huffington Post from the AP reported on Thursday that a member of the Afghanistan parliament said, "It was the demand of the families of the martyrs of this incident, the people of Kandahar and the people of Afghanistan to try him publicly in Afghanistan"

Mohammad Naeem Lalai Hamidzai is also part of a commission that was formed in the country to investigate the matter. President Hamid Karzai said in a statement on Sunday:

"When Afghan people are killed deliberately by US forces this action is murder and terror and an unforgivable action."

Karzai has made other statements since then including his call for NATO to pull out of rural areas and speed up the transfer of security responsibilities to Afghan forces nationwide. The Taliban has abandoned, at least temporarily, ongoing talks with the U.S. about the terms under which U.S. soldiers would remain in the country until the expected exit date in 2014.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta experienced an incident when he arrived in the country earlier this week as a bomb was detonated on the airport runway near where the Secretary's plane was expected to land. Panetta told media that the soldier in custody could face the death penalty if found guilty.

Earlier Thursday, the Tacoma news site of The News Tribune reported on the retainer of a local lawyer to defend the soldier. Seattle defense attorney John Henry Browne said today he’ll represent the Joint Base Lewis-McChord staff sergeant.

Mr. Browne said he had spoken to his client. "We’re making contingency arrangements right now. We don’t know where he’s going to be tried."

The soldier's name has not been released and Mr. Browne refused to give many details about his identity other than that he is from the area, is a staff sergeant, a 38 year-old married father who’s trained as a sniper and he knew who Browne was. Browne did mention that he believes the case was going to be "more political than legal"

Attorney Browne made a name for himself most recently by defending the "Barefoot Bandit," Colton Harris-Moore. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported, "He stole airplanes, boats, and broke into homes over the course of the two years he spent fleeing from police. He was sentenced in December to 6.5 years in prison."

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

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