SEATTLE — The U.S. soldier suspected of gunning down at least 16 Afghan civilians was from a Washington state-based Stryker brigade and received his assignment to a village stability program less than six weeks ago, a congressional source told The Associated Press on Monday.
The staff sergeant deployed to Afghanistan on Dec. 3 with the 2nd Battallion, 3rd Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord located south of Seattle, the source said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
The soldier’s name has not been released. But the source says he was attached Feb. 1 to the village stability program in Belambai, half a mile from one of the villages where the attack took place.
The soldier is now in pretrial confinement as Army officials review his complete deployment and medical history.
The village stability operations are part of NATO’s efforts to transition out of Afghanistan. They pair special operations troops with local villagers chosen by village elders to become essentially a sanctioned, armed neighborhood watch.
The soldier had previously deployed to Iraq. This was his first deployment to Afghanistan, officials have told the AP.
The 3rd Stryker Brigade has deployed three times to Iraq since 2003 and sent 2,500 soldiers to Afghanistan for the first time last December.
This story was written and provided by The Associated Press Wire. (Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)