6 Nov 2012

US soldier in court over Afghan killings

10:07 pm on 6 November 2012

A preliminary hearing has begun for an American soldier charged with killing 16 villagers, mostly women and children, in Afghanistan.

Sergeant Robert Bales is accused of walking off his base in Kandahar province on 11 March this year and firing on civilians in their homes.

The massacre caused widespread anger in Afghanistan and added further strain to already difficult US-Afghan relations, the BBC reports.

The hearing will determine if there is enough evidence for a court martial.

Sergeant Bales faces 16 counts of premeditated murder and six counts of attempted murder, as well as charges of assault and using steroids.

If convicted, he could face the death penalty.