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Hometown of freed US soldier cancels welcome

Idaho scraps planned celebration of Bowe Bergdahl's release from Taliban amid allegations that he was a deserter.

Last updated: 05 Jun 2014 10:02
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Organisers cited public safety concerns as a reason for the cancellation [GALLO/GETTY]

US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl's hometown has cancelled a rally planned for later this month celebrating his release from five years of Taliban captivity.

Organisers in Idaho cited concerns that they lacked the resources to safely manage the thousands of supporters and protesters who were expected to converge on the small mountain community of 8,000 residents.

The decision on Wednesday came as pressure mounted to cancel the rally in the face of rising hostility, expressed in a torrent of emails and phone calls directed at city officials and businesses, over claims by Bergdahl's one time army comrades that he deliberately abandoned his post in Afghanistan.

"National media attention on Hailey and this event has led many across the nation to believe that the event is intended to be a military parade," a town statement said, citing public safety concerns as a reason for the cancellation.

Hailey Police Chief Jeff Gunter told the Associated Press the event had been misrepresented in the national media, leading people to think it was some sort of hero's welcome.

The town has had an event called "Bring Bowe Back" for several years.

That commemoration of his capture was scheduled for June 28, but when news of Bergdahl's release broke, organisers quickly announced it would be a welcome-home party instead. 

Hailey Chamber of Commerce President Jane Drussel said she had received dozens of hateful emails and phone calls over the past few days, starting after she was quoted in news stories saying the town was jubilant that Bergdahl had been released.

The Chamber of Commerce has also received dozens of emails and calls from detractors, many lambasting the town, Drussel and the chamber for supporting Bergdahl, calling him un-American and a traitor.

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