Conflict & Justice

US Army seeks death penalty for Robert Bales, accused of Afghan villager massacre


Grave stones of some of the sixteen Afghan villagers who were killed in the March massacre are pictured in the grave-yard in Panjwai district of Kandahar province on November 4, 2012.


Gary Dangerfield

The US Army is seeking the death penalty for Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, accused in a murderous rampage in Afghanistan in which 16 Afghans — mostly women and children — died.

The Associated Press, among others, reported the announcement, which followed a pretrial hearing last month for Bales, 39, who is facing premeditated murder and other charges, including using drugs and alcohol while deployed.

He is accused of mounting a one-man pre-dawn attack on two villages in Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan, in March.

Prosecutors say Bales, who was serving his fourth combat tour, attacked one village, returned to the base and then went out again to attack another nearby compound, shooting and stabbing members of several families, the New York Times reported.

The slayings drew such angry protests that the US temporarily halted combat operations in Afghanistan, the AP wrote, preventing American investigators from reaching the crime scenes for three weeks.

No US service member has been executed in more than 50 years, according to the BBC.

Last week's preliminary hearing was told that Bales had a "clear memory" of what had happened and that he was conscious of his actions.

There has been a suggestion that Bales' attorneys would use post-traumatic stress as a defense.

Bales served three previous tours in Iraq and, according to lawyers, saw his friend's leg blown off the day before the killings.

No date has been set for Bales' trial at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state.

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