The soldier accused of killing 17 Afghan villagers this month has reported suffering from severe nightmares, flashbacks of war scenes and persistent headaches after multiple combat tours, his attorney said Wednesday.
Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales told his legal team that he has long woken up with night sweats, often replaying memories of a grisly episode that he and his infantry company witnessed in Iraq several years ago, according to John Henry Browne, a civilian lawyer.
Browne's comments amounted to the most detailed public portrayal so far of Bales' state of mind in the months leading up to an incident in which the soldier stands accused of committing one of the worst U.S. atrocities in the decade-long war in Afghanistan.
Military officials and witnesses have alleged that Bales, 38, left his base early March 11 and methodically killed Afghan villagers, most of them women and children. He allegedly attempted to burn the bodies before returning to the base.
New details emerged this week that offer possible explanations for how Bales might have slipped away from his outpost.
In interviews, U.S. and Afghan officials said the outpost was guarded by Afghan soldiers that night, as it probably was on most nights, because there was a relatively small number of U.S. soldiers based there.
Officials have speculated that it might have been easier for Bales to walk past an Afghan security guard than a U.S. soldier, who probably would have known him and perhaps would have been less willing to let him leave without proper authorization.
Browne, in an interview, did not acknowledge any wrongdoing by Bales, but said his client told him that, on the night of the shootings, he returned to his base in southern Afghanistan with only a foggy memory of what had happened.
The lawyer stressed that Bales did not confess, as military officials have said, but seemed surprised when his weapon was taken away.
Bales is being held at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., pending a full military investigation.
Information from New York Times was used in this report.