SEATTLE — The soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers was on his way to a U.S. military prison, a senior defense official said Friday, as the soldier’s attorney spoke of the impact the fighting had on his client.
The defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of security surrounding the move, said the soldier was en route to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., the military’s only maximum-security prison.
The Kuwaiti military said in a statement carried on the state news Friday that the soldier had left Kuwait. He had been moved there from Afghanistan on Wednesday because, officials said, there was no appropriate detention facility to hold him in Afghanistan.
The U.S. defense official said the suspect’s move does not necessarily mean a decision was imminent on announcing formal criminal charges.
The soldier’s attorney, Seattle attorney John Henry Browne, told The Associated Press on Friday that he and the judge advocate general had to cancel a 6 a.m. PDT video conference with the soldier because the suspect was either preparing to fly or was en route.
Browne said either he or his legal partner, Emma Scanlan, will meet with the soldier at Fort Leavenworth next week.
Browne said that the day before the rampage, the soldier saw his friend’s leg blown off. Browne said his client’s family provided him with details of the injury to another U.S. soldier. The details have not been independently verified.
“His leg was blown off, and my client was standing next to him,” he said Thursday.
It isn’t clear whether the incident might have helped prompt the horrific middle-of-the-night attack on civilians in two villages last Sunday. Browne said it affected all of the soldiers at the base.
Browne declined to release his client’s name, citing concerns for the man’s family, which is under protection on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Tacoma. But he said the soldier has two young children, ages 3 and 4.
FBI spokeswoman Ayn Dietrich in Seattle said the agency and the Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin Thursday about the possibility of homegrown extremist retaliation for the shootings, but she said there’s no specific target or credible information about an imminent attack.
The soldier, a 38-year-old originally from the Midwest, deployed last December with the 3rd Stryker Brigade, and on Feb. 1 was attached to a “village stability operation.” Browne described him as highly decorated and said he had once been nominated for a Bronze Star, which he did not receive.
During tours in Iraq, the soldier suffered a concussive head injury in a car accident caused by a roadside bomb, Browne said, and he suffered a battle-related injury that resulted in surgery to remove part of his foot.