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US soldier charged with 17 murder counts in Afghan massacre could face death

Washington, Sat, 24 Mar 2012 ANI

Washington, Mar 24 (ANI): A US soldier, who has been accused of killing 17 Afghan civilians in their homes, has been charged with premeditated murder and could face the death penalty.

Army Staff Sgt Robert Bales, 38, is accused of walking off a US military base with his 9mm pistol and M-4 rifle, which was outfitted with a grenade launcher, on March 11, killing nine Afghan children and eight adults, then burning some of the bodies.

He was charged on Friday with 17 counts of premeditated murder, the worst allegation of civilian killings by an American that has severely strained US-Afghan ties.

Six other Afghans, a man, a woman and four children, were wounded in Panjwai district of Kandahar province.

According to Colonel Gary Kolb, a spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan, Bales was also charged with six counts of attempted murder and six counts of assault in those cases, The Telegraph reports.

The maximum punishment for a premeditated murder conviction is death, dishonorable discharge from the armed forces, reduction to the lowest enlisted grade and total forfeiture of pay and allowances, Col Kolb said.

The mandatory minimum sentence is life imprisonment with the chance of parole.

According to the paper, legal experts, however, believe that the death penalty would be unlikely in the case.

The military hasn't executed a service member since 1961 when an Army ammunition handler was hanged for raping an 11-year-old girl in Austria. (ANI)

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