US Sgt. Robert Bales Charged in Connection to Afghan Massacre

Luis Ramirez

March 26, 2012

The U.S. military has filed murder charges against Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales in connection to the killings of 17 Afghan villagers, including nine children.

Bales now faces 17 counts of pre-mediated murder and a possible death sentence. He heard the formal charges on Friday.

The case stems from the killing of 17 villagers in Kandahar province on March 11, near a U.S. military outpost where Bales was stationed.

Afghan witnesses say Bales stabbed and shot the villagers, and set some of them on fire. A number of children were among the victims.

Bales' attorney spoke to reporters this week after meeting with his client for several hours.

“He has an early memory of that evening and he has a later memory of that evening. But he doesn’t have memory of in between,” said Bales' defense attorney, John Henry Browne.

Like many other U.S. service members in this decade of war, Bales had multiple deployments. He was on his fourth combat tour and suffered a brain injury in an earlier deployment. That has fueled questions about combat stress, frequent deployments and head injuries.

None of those questions or possibilities are quelling the anger of some Afghans who were already upset by another recent incident - the inadvertent destruction of the Quran by U.S. service members.

The March 11 massacre has sparked calls for revenge and harsh justice.

"We demand from the court in the United States to give the death penalty to the U.S soldier who massacred the civilians, because he deserves hanging, because he committed the biggest crime. We want a punishment based on Islamic sharia law."

The case has raised tensions between the U.S. and Afghan governments.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has demanded that U.S. troops - scheduled to be in his country for two more years - stay out of Afghan villages.

For now, Bales is at a military prison in the U.S. state of Kansas, awaiting word on his fate.

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