The U.S. soldier accused of killing 16 civilians in house-to-house shooting spree in southern Afghanistan has been identified as Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, U.S. media reported on Friday.
Fox News and CNN were the first to name the suspect, quoting military sources. U.S. officials have declined to make his name public before he is officially charged.
The 38-year-old sergeant is believed to have walked off his base in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar in the middle of the night on Sunday and gunned down 16 people, including nine children, in a rampage on two nearby villages.
The man, a husband and father of two, was serving on his fourth combat deployment in 10 years, the first three in Iraq, media reports said.
Shortly after the attack, he was moved to Kuwait before being flown to the United States on Friday to await trial in a military prison.
The soldier’s lawyer, John Henry Browne, was quoted as saying his client had seen a friend's leg blown off the day before he went on the rampage. He was also reported to have suffered a traumatic brain injury while serving in Iraq. It is not clear, however, whether those incidents might have helped prompt the horrific attack on civilians.
The lawyer also said his client "wasn't thrilled about going on another deployment" after serving three tours in Iraq. "He was told he wasn't going back, and then he was told he was going," Fox News quoted his as saying.
Meanwhile, Afghan President Hamid Karzai cast doubt on Friday on the account of events given by U.S. authorities as he met the families of the murdered Afghans.
"We tried to talk to the soldier involved, but there was no cooperation from America," media reports quoted the president as saying. "Based on what you are saying, the killer was not just one person."
Sunday’s attack was the latest in a series of serious setbacks suffered by U.S. troops in Afghanistan in recent months. In late February, the burning of Quran copies at the U.S. Bagram Air Base to the north of Kabul triggered mass street protests across the country whose participants demanded that foreign troops immediately leave Afghanistan.
In January, a video footage of U.S. troops appearing to urinate on the bloodied corpses of Taliban fighters sparked a wave of angry protests in Afghanistan.
Pentagon has promised to investigate all the incidents and punish those guilty.