03/16/2012 11:23 am ET Updated May 16, 2012

Afghanistan Shooting Suspect Leaves Kuwait

WASHINGTON, March 16 (Reuters) - The U.S. staff sergeant accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians was on his way early on Friday to Fort Leavenworth army base in Kansas and is expected to be tried by a military court, his attorney said.

"I can tell you that I just learned that he is now on his way to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas," Seattle defense attorney John Henry Browne said on CNN.

The soldier, whose name has not been released, had been held in Kuwait after he was flown out of Afghanistan on Wednesday. Fort Leavenworth has the U.S. Defense Department's only maximum security facility.

The shooting of villagers has harmed relations between Afghanistan and the United States and Afghan President Hamid Karzai accused the Pentagon of failing to fully cooperate with an investigation into the massacre.

Browne said he had spoken with his client earlier in the morning, and in the short conversation the soldier "sounded distant and kind of like a deer in the headlights, but okay."

At a news conference on Thursday, Browne described his client as "an exemplary soldier" who was upset at having to do a fourth tour of duty in a war zone and was likely suffering from stress after seeing colleagues wounded.

An unnamed U.S. official had told The New York Times the killings were a result of "a combination of stress, alcohol and domestic issues - he just snapped."

But Browne said suggestions of marital problems were "totally bogus." He said his client has a "very strong marriage and frankly we're all taking offense at that."

Browne said he had heard from a military lawyer that "another soldier at this base was brutally attacked the day before this incident and actually had his leg shot off right in front of my client."

Asked whether the massacre may have involved more than one soldier, Browne said: "I don't have any information on that, one way or the other."

Karzai met with village elders and families of victims of the shootings on Friday and appeared to back their belief that one gunman acting alone could not have killed so many people and in different places some distance apart.

On Thursday, Karzai called for NATO troops to leave Afghan villages and confine themselves to major bases, underscoring fury over the massacre and clouding U.S. plans to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. (Reporting by Vicki Allen; Editing by Anthony Boadle)



Afghanistan Shooting