30 May 2013

US soldier to plead guilty to killings

9:16 pm on 30 May 2013

An American soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians in 2012 has agreed to plead guilty to murder charges.

A lawyer for Staff Sergeant Robert Bales says he will enter guilty pleas at a hearing on 5 June in a deal to avoid the death penalty.

The evidence against Staff Sergeant Bales was overwhelming, the BBC reports.

In a preliminary hearing last year, Afghan witnesses testifying by video phone described the night-time shooting rampage in a remote part of Kandahar province.

The soldier had left a US outpost before attacking two villages nearby on 11 March 2012.

Prosecutors said 16 people were killed, including nine children. Fellow soldiers testified that Staff Sergeant Bales returned to the base just before dawn covered in blood and admitting the killings.

It is one of the worst atrocities in Afghanistan and provoked angry protests that forced American troops to suspend combat operations.