US Military Refuses to Name Killer Soldier

THE US soldier suspected in the massacre of more than a dozen Afghan civilians is a 38-year-old father of two who served three tours in Iraq and is based in Washington state.

THE US soldier suspected in the massacre of more than a dozen Afghan civilians is a 38-year-old father of two who served three tours in Iraq and is based in Washington state.

But, days after the killings, the military has kept quiet about his name.

Military officials said it was military policy not to release the name until charges are filed. But military experts said this was unusual.

"This is unprecedented in my experience," said Eugene Fidell, who teaches military law at Yale University. "It's very strange."

Mr Fidell speculated that the military was focused on ensuring the safety of the soldier's family.

Information has been limited inside the military as well. Jill Barber, a wife of a staff sergeant in the same battalion as the suspect, said she learned of the Sunday shooting only from news coverage. She said her husband wasn't allowed to call her for more than a day after the shooting and that soldiers can get in trouble for talking about it.

"They shut everything down over there," Ms Barber said on Monday. "I didn't even find out about it from him. They're not allowed to say anything."

It's typical for the military to put stringent controls on communication after deaths or injuries, including the shutdown of internet and telephone access on a combat zone base, often for 24 hours.

If a soldier is wounded but his injuries are not life-threatening, military officials will allow him or her to call next of kin on a satellite phone, but they are instructed not to mention others having been hurt or killed - and an officer stands at the bedside to make sure that rule is followed.

Jeffrey Addicott, who previously served as the senior legal adviser to the US Army's Special Forces, said the military has increasingly used the shutdown of communications to control information.

He said soldiers who are aware of the identity of the suspect are likely to have orders from superiors not to speak about it and have probably had their electronic devices confiscated so nothing leaks out.

Mr Addicott said he can't think of any other case where a name has been held back for this long, but he thinks it may be necessary in this case to help contain any backlash. He fears that extremists may try to seek revenge for the killings, perhaps by targeting the soldier's family.

"I think it's probably a good thing that we don't have to release his name," Mr Addicott said.

Military officials in this case haven't even officially confirmed that the soldier was based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state.

That information came from sources who spoke to The Associated Press and other media organisations and spoke only on condition of anonymity.

Base spokesman Joe Piek referred any questions to military leaders in Afghanistan.

The suspect was flown out of Afghanistan on Wednesday evening to what officials describe as a pretrial confinement facility.

The soldier is with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. He was attached to Camp Belambai, home to a village stability force that pairs special operations troops with villagers to help provide neighbourhood security.

Authorities said the suspect attacked two small villages close to his base in southern Kandahar province. An Afghan official said he was shown a surveillance video of the soldier returning to his base, laying down his weapon and raising his arms in surrender.

There have been other circumstances where military officials have taken their time in releasing information about soldier suspects, such as in the deliberate thrill killings of three Afghan civilians during patrols by another Lewis-McChord based unit in 2010.