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Lawyer John Henry Browne speaking to journalists yesterday. AP Photo/Ted S. Warren/PA Images

US soldier 'saw friend's leg blown off' on day before rampage

The family of shooting suspect has been moved to a military base for their own protection, according to officials.

THE US SOLDIER accused of shooting 16 Afghan civilians to death during a night raid on their homes was injured during his previous deployments to Iraq and had recently seen his friend suffer serious injuries in Afghanistan, according to his lawyer.

Nine of the 16 civilians killed in the early morning shootings were children, and some of the bodies of the victims were burned by the attacker.

The deaths have severely soured already-damaged relations between the US and Afghan governments and led to the suspension of peace talks between the US and the Taliban.

The soldier has not been named, but has been identified as a 38-year-old father of two young children. He suffered a head injury and lost part of a foot when he was deployed in Iraq and he has been trained as a sniper.

His lawyer John Henry Browne says that the soldier had not wanted to be deployed to Afghanistan and had witnessed his friend’s leg being blown off the day before the shooting rampage. The Associated Press reports that Browne says the soldier’s family had told him about the event, but that the information has not been independently verified.

Browne says the sergeant’s family was stunned to hear of the mass shooting. ”They were totally shocked,” he said. “He’s never said anything antagonistic about Muslims. He’s in general very mild-mannered.”

The suspect’s family has been moved to a military base for protection, according to military officials.

- Additional reporting by the AP

Hundreds protest Afghan shootings as Taliban mounts attack on government >

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