TIME Afghanistan

Bergdahl’s Idaho Hometown Cancels Homecoming Celebration

Bowe Bergdahl Hailey Idaho
Flags and balloons, marking the release from captivity of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, adorn the sidewalk outside a shop in the soldier's hometown of Hailey, Idaho, on June 4, 2014. Brian Skoloff—AP

Bergdahl's hometown is canceling a celebration for the returned sergeant at the end of the month amidst a rising backlash

Updated 4:45 p.m. E.T. on June 4

A rally in U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s Idaho hometown celebrating his release after nearly five years of captivity has been canceled amid growing questions about the circumstances of the soldier’s capture.

The joy over Bergdahl’s return among residents of the small mountain community of Hailey, Idaho has been dampened by claims that he abandoned his post. Some have also claimed that the subsequent search for Bergdahl cost the lives of up to six soldiers, Reuters reports.

Hailey’s city administrator, Heather Dawson said town officials called off the June 28 rally at the request of organizers. The town “will be unable to safely manage the number of people expected,” Dawson told Reuters.

But residents say they support Bergdahl either way and that they’re continuing to prepare for a June 28 rally in his honor.

“People in Hailey have been aware for some time that there were questions about how Bowe came to be captured, and that there was a chance that Bowe could be in trouble when he came home,” said Stefanie O’Neill, a rally co-organizer.

The backlash over Bergdahl’s release reached a fever pitch early this week amid reports that the White House overrode interagency security processes to free five Taliban higher-ups in exchange for Bergdahl’s release. There has also been increasing scrutiny of Bergdahl’s absence from his post in Afghanistan before his capture.

[Reuters]

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