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Afghan spree suspect en route to U.S. amid probe

Abdul Samad, center, eleven of whose family members were allegedly killed by a U.S. soldier in Panjwai, Afghanistan, talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, unseen, at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 16, 2012.
AP Photo

(CBS News) The U.S. soldier accused in the shooting rampage that left 16 Afghan civilians dead is being transferred back to the United States after his removal from Afghanistan to Kuwait sparked anger from officials in both countries, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports.

The suspect, an Army sergeant who remains unidentified, is expected to be brought to the military prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. U.S. and Kuwaiti military officials confirmed he had flown out of the country earlier Friday and John Henry Browne, the suspect's attorney, told the Associated Press that he or his legal partner Emma Scanlan would meet the suspect at Leavenworth next week.

Browne said Thursday the 38-year-old, who had been injured twice in Iraq, was reluctant about a fourth deployment.

(At left, watch Martin's report)

"He and the family were told his tours of the Middle East were over and then literally overnight, that changed. So I think it's fair to say that he and the family were not happy that he was going back."

At Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where the suspect is based, near Tacoma, Wash., Gen. David M. Rodriguez, commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command, said Friday he was "confident" in the level of screening performed on servicemembers before repeat deployments. He wouldn't discuss the killings in detail because of they were still under investigation.

"The organizations and leaders here are surprised and shocked as much by it as we are," Rodriguez told a news conference. "It is a tragedy. We are disappointed that it happened and shocked like everybody else."

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Meanwhile, Pentagon officials are investigating independent reports that in the hours before the shooting, the accused soldier was drinking alcohol with two other soldiers, which is forbidden in a combat zone. Browne shot down media reports of alcohol and marital problems and focused on the stresses his client had experienced in combat, including witnessing a fellow soldier get his legs blown off the day before the alleged rampage.

"At this small base that he was at, somebody was gravely injured the day before this incident which affected all the soldiers there," Browne said.

Browne released other new details about the suspect. He is from the Midwest, has two children, ages 3 and 4, and is a highly decorated soldier with a flawless military record.

He said the suspect's family is stunned.

"He's never said anything antagonistic and Muslims. He's never said anything antagonistic and Middle Eastern individuals. He's in general very mild mannered. They were shocked," Browne said.

The suspect's family is staying at Lewis-McChord for their protection.