US Army sergeant charged with seventeen Afghan murders

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

US Army Staff Sargeant Robert Bales

Robert Bales, 38, a US Army sergeant, was formally charged with seventeen counts of premeditated murder alongside six counts of attempted murder on Friday. Bales was charged in connection with a shooting spree in two southern Afghanistan villages earlier this month. Sources indicate the incident has further aggravated US-Afghanistan relations.

US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told reporters that he does not anticipate prosecutors seeking the death penalty. Officials also told reporters that more charges are anticipated, including derilection of duties, among others. The charges so far allege Bales left his base and shot numerous Afghan civilians, including women and nine children, while they were asleep in their homes.

Authorities allege that Bales then burned some of their bodies. Bales was read the charges at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the US Army's military prison. Bales has been there since last week. Earlier last week, Bales' wife extended her condolences to the families of the slain.

Bales' civilian attorney, John Henry Browne, has voiced doubts that the government will be able to make a strong case against the soldier. Browne has also speculated that Bales' mental state will become an issue at some time in the proceedings. Bales, a married father of two makes his home in Bonney Lake, Washington. He now awaits an Article 32 hearing, which is similar to a civilian grand jury hearing. Some sources indicate it could be months until a public hearing is held.