Agence France-Presse

US soldier Robert Bales charged with 17 murder counts

A man identified as Robert Bales appears in this Defense Department photograph published in High Desert Warrior, a publication at the National Training Center and Fort Irwin in California.

The US soldier accused of killing civilians on a shooting rampage in two villages in Afghanistan was charged Friday with 17 counts of murder.

Staff Sgt. Robert Bales was also charged with six counts of assault and attempted murder, CNN reported.

The 38-year-old was moved from Afghanistan after the incident in Panjway, in southern Kandahar province on March 11, and is being held in solitary confinement at a military detention center in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

The investigation remained open and additional charges could be filed, the Wall Street Journal reported.

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The Wall Street Journal says that official reports put the death toll from the attack at 16, and says that US officials didn't explain why the formal charges will contain 17 counts of murder.

Bales' lawyer John Henry Browne was contacted by CNN who reportedly said he has not been formally notified of the charges.

However, he said the case would be "extremely difficult" for the prosecution, adding: "I'm going to make them prove every claim."

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Meanwhile, Associated Press is reporting that it has obtained an incident report from Pierce County Sheriff's Department, which shows that Bales was accused of sexually harassing a woman in 2008.

According to the document, an intoxicated Bales tried to pull the woman's hand to his crotch outside a bowling alley in Tacoma, Washington, and then punched and kicked the woman's boyfriend.

Bales' lawyer declined to comment on the report.

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