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Suspect taken to Kuwait

WASHINGTON — The American staff sergeant suspected of killing 16 Afghan villagers was flown to Kuwait from Afghanistan on Wednesday, U.S. officials said.

New evidence emerged to support the case that the sergeant acted alone: A surveillance video shows his return after the massacre to the remote American outpost where he surrendered. But he has not been named or formally charged.

Two military officials told McClatchy Newspapers on Wednesday that investigators combing his medical records had found "no smoking gun" to explain the rampage.

The officials said that the suspect — a 38-year-old father who survived three tours in Iraq before deploying to Afghanistan in December — had no evidence of a serious traumatic brain injury or of post-traumatic stress.

The officials called the suspect's 10-year Army career "unremarkable" and said he hadn't had reports of discipline problems while in Afghanistan.

The lack of a clear cause and effect had Pentagon officials admitting they're befuddled by what caused the attack. The suspect was apprehended as he returned to the base. He acknowledged the killings, then asked for an attorney and isn't cooperating with the investigation, officials said.

The sergeant is suspected of having left his outpost in Kandahar province about 1 a.m. Sunday, walked a mile, entered three homes and fired upon unarmed villagers, killing 16 — including nine children — and wounding several others, some critically, according to Afghan officials. American officials haven't confirmed the number of casualties.

Military investigators arrived at the crime scenes hours after the shooting and collected shell casings and other evidence. But many of the victims already had been buried in accordance with Islamic customs, the officials said.

Investigators are pursuing a variety of explanations for the killings. Alcohol was found at his small outpost in Kandahar's Panjwai district, but officials haven't determined whether alcohol or drugs contributed to the attack.

They are also probing whether an email that the sergeant reportedly received from his wife about their failing marriage could have prompted the incident.

Navy Capt. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said the suspect was flown to an undisclosed U.S. military facility in another country because there was no long-term facility to hold him in Afghanistan. Charging the suspect outside of Afghanistan also could mean that not all Afghan witnesses will appear at his trial.

Pentagon officials have suggested he will be charged with premeditated murder, which could carry the death penalty.

The suspect's family is in protective custody, Army officials said.

Information from the New York Times and McClatchy Newspapers was used in this report.

Suspect taken to Kuwait 03/14/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 10:26pm]
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