A U.S. soldier has been charged with killing 17 Afghan civilians.
Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, 38, was charged on March 23 with 17 counts of premeditated murder, which is a capital offense that could lead to the death penalty. Bales has been accused of walking off a U.S. military base with several guns and a grenade right before dawn on March 11. With these weapons, he killed nine Afghan children and eight adults, then burned some of their bodies.
These allegations of civilian killings are one of the worst against an American and has strained the U.S.-Afghan relationship.
It is currently unknown what prompted Bales to go on his killing spree, but the case has drawn new attention to mental health care for the troops. In the recent years, suicide rates, brain injuries, and post-traumatic stress has risen for those who have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan multiple times.
Bales also wounded six other Afghans – a man, a woman, and four children, which has lead him to be charged with an additional six counts of attempted murder and six counts of assault, for a total of 29 charges.
The father of two from Lake Tapps, Washington is currently being confined at the U.S. military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He was on his fourth tour of duty at the time, and had served three of those tours in Iraq.
If convicted, Bales could face the death penalty.