U.S. Soldier Pleads Guilty In Afghan Shooting Rampage


A U.S. soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians in two rampages last year has pleaded guilty to murder to avoid the death penalty.

Staff Sgt Robert Bales will be questioned by a military judge and may give an account of the massacre.

He left a US outpost in Kandahar province in the early hours of 11 March 2012, attacking two villages nearby.

Family members of those killed have told the BBC they were outraged he might not die.

"We will not be satisfied unless he is executed," Haji Abdul Baqi, whose cousins were killed or injured in the attack, told BBC Afghan.

"If they don't execute him, they are showing their power. He martyred 16 of our people, but they are not executing the one person who did all that. Would they forgive us if we killed 16 Americans?"

Most victims were women and children.


Bales's lawyers have said he is contrite about the killings and have said he will admit to "very specific facts" at the plea hearing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state.

Lawyer John Henry Browne described Bales as "crazed" and "broken" on the night of the attack.

The judge, as well as the commander of Lewis-McChord, must approve any plea deal. A military jury would then decide if a life prison term for Bales would include the possibility of parole.

At the time of the attack, Bales was serving his fourth tour of duty and had been drinking alcohol and snorting Valium.

In addition to the 16 murdered, six Afghans were injured.

Seventeen victims were women or children, and many of them were shot in the head. Some of the bodies were piled up and burnt.

Bales' defence team said they had determined the soldier would not be able to prove any claim of insanity or diminished capacity.

While prosecutors originally said they would seek the death penalty, no US service member has been executed in more than 50 years.

Story source: BBC