23 Mar 2012

US soldier to face 17 charges of murder

7:30 pm on 23 March 2012

An American soldier suspected of killing civilians in Afghanistan will be charged with 17 counts of murder, according to United States officials.

Staff Sergeant Robert Bales is accused of attacking the villagers in their homes in Kandahar province on 11 March. Most of the victims were women and children.

Sgt Bales, 38, was later moved to the US after being transported from Afghanistan to Kuwait. He is being held in solitary confinement at a military detention centre in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

He could face the death penalty if convicted.

The BBC reports it has been told that he will also be charged with six counts of assault and attempted murder.

Sgt Bales is the only known suspect in the killings - despite repeated Afghan assertions that more than one American was involved.

His lawyer, who has played down reports that his client was drunk on the night of the killings, said earlier this week he remembers "very little" of the incident.

John Henry Brown also said there was "no forensic evidence" against Sgt Bales and "no confession".

The trial could take years, the BBC reports, notwithstanding Afghan demands for swift and decisive justice.