US Soldier Charged with 17 Counts of Murder in Afghan Massacre

Posted March 24th, 2012 at 12:30 am (UTC-5)
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The 38-year-old U.S. Army soldier accused of an Afghan village massacre has been charged with 17 counts of murder and six counts of attempted murder, but it may be as much as two years before a trial. The deadly incident has further strained already-frayed relations between the U.S. and Afghanistan.

Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, an 11-year military veteran, is alleged to have walked out of his southern Afghanistan military post earlier this month under the cover of darkness and gunned down nine children and eight adults. Relatives of the victims said Friday they want Bales' trial held in Afghanistan.

A spokesman for Bales' home military base in Washington state said it will be several months before a preliminary hearing begins, and perhaps as long as two years until a trial, depending on pre-trial motions and actions.

Bales, the father of two young children, was officially informed Friday of the charges against him at the U.S. military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he is confined.

Bales' civilian lawyer, John Henry Browne, has admitted that his client had something to drink before the shooting spree, despite a military alcohol ban.

Browne has said his client was likely suffering from combat stress.

Bales, who served three tours of duty in Iraq before being deployed to Afghanistan last December, suffered a traumatic brain injury in Iraq in 2010. A day before the massacre, he witnessed one of his fellow soldiers get his leg blown off.

News reports have emerged that Bales has had past brushes with the law in the U.S. involving alcohol. He is also reportedly facing financial troubles at home, and had a $1.5 million securities fraud judgement issued against him several years ago.

Bales could face the death penalty for his shooting rampage. The U.S. military has not executed a service member in five decades.