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Lawyer: U.S. Soldier Accused Of Massacre Reluctant To Deploy To Afghanistan

The killing of 16 Afghan civilians in Kandahar Province prompted anti-U.S. rallies, such as this protest in Jalalabad Province on March 13.

The killing of 16 Afghan civilians in Kandahar Province prompted anti-U.S. rallies, such as this protest in Jalalabad Province on March 13.

The lawyer who's been asked to defend the U.S. soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers, including nine women and three children, said his client was reluctant to leave on his fourth deployment.

John Henry Browne said that the soldier had been injured twice during three previous deployments to Iraq and that he and his family thought he was done fighting.

"He was told that he was not going to be redeployed," Browne said. "The family was counting on him not being redeployed. And so he and the family were told that his tours in the Middle East were over. And then literally overnight that changed. So I think that it would be fair to say that he and the family were not happy that he was going back."

Browne said the day before the shooting in the southern Kandahar Province on March 11 the soldier had witnessed one of his fellow American soldiers getting his legs blown off in an explosion. The lawyer described the wounded soldier as a friend of the shooter and said the incident affected all U.S. soldiers at the military base in Kandahar.

Browne said the soldier's family was shocked at what happened and said he had no animosity toward Muslims or people from the Middle East or South Asia.

"Oh, they were totally shocked. He's never said anything antagonistic about Muslims. He's never said anything antagonistic about Middle Eastern individuals," Browne said. "He's, in general, been very mild-mannered. So they were very shocked by this."

Browne said he knew little of the facts of the shooting but disputed reports that a combination of alcohol, stress, and domestic issues caused his client to "snap."

The lawyer declined to release his client's name but said the 38-year-old soldier has two young children.

Fearing possible retaliatory attacks, the soldier's family has reportedly moved to a military base south of Seattle.

Browne described the soldier as highly decorated and said he had once been nominated for a Bronze Star, a prestigious medal for bravery.

The shootings in Kandahar Province on March 11 have raised fresh tensions between Kabul and Washington. It also came after the accidental burning of Korans at a NATO military base, which sparked angry protests across Afghanistan.

As a result of the killings, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has called for NATO troops to leave Afghan villages and to remain on major bases.

Karzai also told visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that the Kabul government wants to take control of Afghan security from NATO forces in 2013 -- not in 2014 as planned by Washington.

Meanwhile, the Taliban announced it was suspending preliminary talks in Qatar with the United States aimed at building confidence for full-scale peace negotiations.

A Taliban statement accused the United States of having a wavering position. It also said the Taliban rejects talks with Karzai's government.

Reacting to the Taliban announcement, Washington said it remains committed to political reconciliation involving talks with the Taliban. But Washington said progress would depend on agreement between the Afghan government and the insurgents.

With AP, AFP, and Reuters reports

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