Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales Friday was charged Friday with 17 counts of murder and six counts of attempted murder, along with other charges, in connection with a shooting rampage in two southern Afghanistan villages that shocked Americans back home and further roiled U.S.-Afghan relations.
The charges come almost two weeks after the massacre in which Bales allegedly left his base in the early morning hours and shot Afghan civilians, including women and nine children, while they slept in their beds, then burned some of the bodies.
It was the worst allegation of civilian killings by an American and has severely strained U.S.-Afghan ties at a critical time in the decade-old war.
Bales was read the charges on Friday at the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where he has been held since being flown from Afghanistan last week, a U.S. official said.
Bales’ civilian attorney, John Henry Browne, said Friday without commenting on the specific charges that he believes the government will have a hard time proving its case and that at some stage in the prosecution his client’s mental state will be an important issue.