Bales to be Charged with Murder in Afghan Killings

By: Pauline Jelinek and Lolita C. Baldor, AP
By: Pauline Jelinek and Lolita C. Baldor, AP
Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales will be charged with 17 counts of murder as well as assault and a string of other offenses in the massacre of Afghan villagers as they slept, a U.S. official said Thursday.


Washington, D.C. (AP) - Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales will be charged with 17 counts of murder as well as assault and a string of other offenses in the massacre of Afghan villagers as they slept, a U.S. official said Thursday.

The charges against Bales include 17 counts of murder, six counts of attempted murder and six counts of aggravated assault as well as dereliction of duty and other violations of military law, the official said on condition of anonymity because the charges had not been announced.

The 38-year-old soldier and father of two, who lives in Lake Tapps, Wash., will be charged with a shooting rampage in two villages near his southern Afghanistan military post in the early hours of March 11, killing nine Afghan children and eight adults and burning some of the victims' bodies.

The charges are to be read to Bales on Friday at the military prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas where he has been held since being flown from Afghanistan last week. He faces trial under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but it could be months before any public hearing.

Military authorities had originally said Bales was suspected in the killing 16 Afghan villagers, nine children and seven adults. They changed that Thursday to 17, raising the number of adults by one but without explaining how the change came about. It's possible some of the dead were buried before U.S. military officials arrived at the scene of the carnage. Six Afghans were wounded in the attack.

Bales' civilian attorney, John Henry Browne, said he wouldn't comment on the charges because he has not been officially provided a copy of what they are. He said he spoke Thursday with prosecutors, who told him they will formally present the charges Friday.

The killings were yet another blow to U.S-Afghan relations, following a series of missteps, including the mistaken burning of Qurans, which prompted violent protests and revenge killings of American troops in the war zone.

The brutal shooting rampage also prompted renewed debate in the United States about health care for the troops, who have experienced record suicide rates and high rates of post-traumatic stress and brain injuries during repeated deployments over a decade of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bales was on his fourth tour of duty, having served three tours in Iraq, where he suffered a head injury and a foot injury. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, of the 2nd Infantry Division, which is based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington.

Browne has portrayed his client as a patriot, loving father and devoted husband who had been traumatized by a comrade's injury and sent into combat one too many times.

But there have been conflicting reports about what exactly Bales saw relating to the comrade's injury. A U.S. defense official said that while it is likely that a soldier from Bales' unit, based in the Panjwai district of Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan, suffered a leg wound a day or two before the March 11 shootings, there is no evidence that Bales witnessed it or the aftermath, or that it played any role in his alleged actions.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an internal review.

Afghan officials have asked the United States for some role in the criminal proceedings, perhaps as observers, and to be kept up to date on the process of the case. The government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai has not demanded that Bales be turned over to the Afghan justice system, although some in the country's parliament did. The Afghans have also urged a fast resolution of the case.

Browne has also said that Bales has some memories from before the incident and some from after but very little of the time when the military says he went on the shooting spree.

"I'm not putting the war on trial," Browne has said, "but the war is on trial." He added: "If I can help create a discussion about the war, that would be a great way for me to go out."

Army officials have said Bales was cleared for return to duty after the head injury he suffered in Iraq.

Bales joined the Army in 2001 after a Florida investment business failed and after he had worked with a string of securities operations. Bales and a broker at one company were hit in 2003 with a $1.5 million arbitration ruling after an elderly couple charged that their holdings were decimated.

He also was arrested in 2002 for the drunken assault of a casino security guard and had to complete an anger management class. There also are reports of a second incident involving alcohol, although Bales was never formally charged.

A sheriff's department report released Thursday says Robert Bales was accused in 2008 in Washington state of shaking hands with a woman, pulling her hand into his crotch and then punching and kicking her boyfriend. It describes Bales as "extremely intoxicated."


Associated Press writers Robert Burns in Washington and Mike Baker and Manuel Valdes in Olympia, Wash., contributed to this report.

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  • by Cecil Location: Madison on Mar 26, 2012 at 05:45 AM
    David from 3-25-12 where he'll you from you should be thanking that soldier. He might have kill the one that would kill you. Be ashame of you for not supporting America
  • by david Location: tallahassee on Mar 25, 2012 at 06:30 AM
    Once again the us government is trying to buy friendship with bribes to the families of the murdered. We should not now or ever be in this country get out now and also this murderer needs to be on trial in afghanistan not her when they find him guilty there will be no drawn out appeals.
  • by anonymous on Mar 25, 2012 at 05:17 AM
    My only question is...did Iraq pay restitution for the hundred of innocent people murdered on 9 11?
  • by Speaks for America.. Location: all of the USA on Mar 23, 2012 at 05:19 PM
    After reading the headlines this week about the US soldier who shot up Afghanistan civilians, I couldn’t help noticing an irony. There is all the clamor to try this guy quickly and execute him, never mind his having suffered a traumatic brain injury. Yet that Major Hasan, who shot up Fort Hood while screaming Allah akbar, still hasn’t stood trial, and they are still debating whether he was insane, even with the clear evidence regarding his motive: slay as many infidels as possible. So we have a guy in a war zone who cracks, and he must be executed immediately. But this Muslim psychiatrist who was stateside in a nice safe office all day murders 13, wounds 29 of our own guys, and they try to argue the poor lad suffered post-traumatic stress syndrome, from listening to real soldiers who had actual battle experience. Two and a half years later, they still haven’t tried this murderer.
    • reply
      by Finally on Mar 24, 2012 at 03:23 AM in reply to Speaks for America..
      The voice of reason and common sense. Welcome to The United States of the Mob Mentality.
  • by Anonymous on Mar 23, 2012 at 09:11 AM
    A bullet for the each person he killed, and we'll call it a day!
  • by good budd Location: ga on Mar 23, 2012 at 06:20 AM
    War is hell. You dont know who the enemy is in Afganistan so there all the enemy. If terrist from Afganistan had not attacked us on 9/11 and killed our civillians in a non-war zone we would not be there now. Our President is a discrace bowing down to Karzi apologizing, kissing his feet,paying him billions,. from one muslin to another.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Mar 23, 2012 at 07:17 AM in reply to good budd
      Oh puh-lease. Don't try and make excuses for this murderer, especially blaming it on Obama. This marine is a disgrace to all of America. He killed innocent families. He should be sent to Afghanistan and put through their court system. Hang em high!
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Mar 23, 2012 at 10:44 AM in reply to
        How about we send your pasty rear end to Afghanistan for a few tours, then you can make comments like this. This guy should be given a medal, because there are no innocent families in Afghanistan.
        • reply
          by Jagged Edge on Mar 23, 2012 at 11:15 AM in reply to
          More proof that we have already lost this war. Time to get out with what little humanity we have left because judging by some of these remarks there is little time to spare.
        • reply
          by Anonymous on Mar 23, 2012 at 01:39 PM in reply to
          What if your family was killed in the middle of the night while sleeping by some foreign person who was SUPPOSE to be " friendly forces"? I'm sure the would deserve a medal too....??????
        • reply
          by Gerry on Mar 23, 2012 at 04:26 PM in reply to
          If there are no innocent families, does that mean there are no innocent individuals? If there are no innocent individuals, why is it talking us so long just to kill them all? We should be able to kill them all in a week, a month at most, even without nuclear weapons.
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Mar 23, 2012 at 01:21 PM in reply to
        Bales is Army; not a Marine.
      • reply
        by God Bless America on Mar 23, 2012 at 05:14 PM in reply to
        That so called disgrace fought for your freedom. You know..with that silver spoon in your mouth. I dare you to do go to battle 4 times. maybe we ought to take a collection and get you a ticket to Afghanistan. You sure aren't welcomed here.
        • reply
          by Gerry on Mar 23, 2012 at 07:00 PM in reply to God Bless America
          He fought for your freedom? Is there any propaganda you won't fall for? Do you really believe Al Qaeda threatened our freedom? Guys living in caves in Afghanistan, talking mostly to goats, threatened our freedom?
        • reply
          by God Bless America on Mar 25, 2012 at 07:08 PM in reply to God Bless America
          gerry.. you must have been born with a silver spoon in your mouth. It's nice to be born in freedom. to bad you don't appreciate itand understand how we got it. Semper Fi.
      • reply
        by No anonymous.. on Mar 25, 2012 at 07:04 PM in reply to
        you are a disgrace to all America..He fought for your freedom. You should bow to him and kiss his feet. Semper Fi.
    • reply
      by Dale on Mar 23, 2012 at 01:41 PM in reply to good budd
      Wow-you are a mess--I assume since you can't spell that you don't read very well. None of the 9/11 murderers were from Afghanistan. And if there are no innocent people over there (not even babies), then there are none in America either, so why are you upset about 9/11. I don't like killers of non-combatants of any nationality. However, this guy has a past of violence here in America--he shouldn't have been over there. Yes, he needs help--I fear he may have done it to try to speed up our exit from that mess, which outs him in the same category a Harry Truman, who killed hundreds of thousands of non-combatants (babies too) to stop the killing. If some other country had caught Bin Laden, what would we have wanted them to do with him? I wish we could get this soldier help, but I'm afraid it's way too late.
      • reply
        by God Bless America on Mar 23, 2012 at 05:17 PM in reply to Dale
        Bin laden was the mastermind dummy..he was in Afghanistan..or maybe in your backyard
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Mar 23, 2012 at 01:46 PM in reply to good budd
      No good budd it's called handling business in the correct manner, but apparently you don't know how to do so.Thank God for a president with the common sense who does know what it means to handle situations like this one in this manner! I hope this idiot gets the chair, he has only made it harder for the existing U.S. military forces that remain or going to Afghanistan. # GoOBAMA!
      • reply
        by anon on Mar 23, 2012 at 04:42 PM in reply to
        Good budd; One day we will figure out the truth of why we are over there in the first palace. But I don't thank it was over 911. They call it American interest. GoOBAMA back to CHICAGO .
  • by Veteran Location: US Marine on Mar 23, 2012 at 06:07 AM
    This is a good example of the Democrats loving our military, this man is sick, he needs mental help. In the meantime the Muslim Nidal Malik Hasan, who opened fire at a military processing center at Fort Hood Texas killing 13 wounding 31 has been ruled incompetent to stand trial. This is a disgrace!!!
    • reply
      by Jones on Mar 23, 2012 at 10:45 AM in reply to Veteran
      The disgrace is that a US Marine killed all these civilians. If you want to get worked up about something try starting there.
      • reply
        by God bless America on Mar 25, 2012 at 07:12 PM in reply to Jones
        You sure they were innocent civilians? Were you there? Were they hiding and feeding the Taliban. You sound like you have a paper blank hole and just blowing wind.
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