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OLRTXT PGE READ USAWA US AF ASIA NEWS WAR VIO CRIM WASH DEF DIP

Wife of Afghan shooting suspect: how could this be?

By Bill Rigby and Peter Henderson

SEATTLE/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The wife of the U.S. soldier suspected of gunning down 16 Afghan civilians broke her silence on Monday to say she did not know what happened half a world away, but felt for the families of the victims while loving her husband very much.

U.S. authorities say Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, 38, walked out of his camp in Kandahar province just over a week ago to kill the Afghans, including nine children, before turning himself in.

"I too want to know what happened. I want to know how this could be," Karilyn Bales, who is also 38 and has two small children with her husband, said in her first public statement on what she called a "heartbreaking tragedy".

"Our family has little information beyond what we read in the media," she said in a statement released by Seattle lawyer Lance Rosen. "What has been reported is completely out of character of the man I know and admire."

She said she could not shed any light on the incident, but added: "The victims and their families are all in my prayers, as is my husband who I love very much."

The children and Karilyn Bales have been sequestered on a military base in the Seattle area.

Their house, for sale at less than the family paid, stands empty in a lakeside neighborhood. About 30 miles away, Karilyn Bales' parents have posted bright red "No Trespassing" signs on trees surrounding their own lakeside home since her husband's name was made public.

Neighbors described a close-knit family and "Kari", as she called herself at times, as a hard-working but "bubbly" young woman who graduated from the University of Washington.

"We'd say 'hi' over the fence," said Barbara Gire, 70. "She was a nice one."

"Bob" was also friendly, helpful and polite, said another neighbor, Edith Bouvette, 52. The couple moved from a modest house near her to the grander one that is now for sale when Karilyn Bales became pregnant shortly after marrying in 2005.

The couple met through an online dating service, Bales' lawyer said, and the young mother described her pregnancy and life with their first child in a bright and happy blog, which has been closed to public view.

In parts of this seen by Reuters she describes feeling the baby kick for the first time after dropping her husband off to deploy to Iraq in 2006 and later the child "moving and grooving in there".

Excerpts cited by the New York Times describe the "adventure" the family had hoped for last year. Her husband had served three tours in Iraq, been turned down for promotion to Sergeant First Class, but she was looking on the bright side - a possible posting in Europe or Hawaii.

Instead, to the anger and consternation of the family, according to Robert Bales' lawyer John Henry Browne, the staff sergeant was sent to Afghanistan in December and brought back to the United States under arrest on Friday.

(Reporting By Peter Henderson, Bill Rigby, Sarah Gross and Laura Myers. Writing by Peter Henderson; Editing by David Brunnstrom)

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