Photo: SBS Dateline
The story of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales — the soldier charged with shooting dead several Afghan villagers — slipped off the radar for some time as the fog of legal proceedings descended.But the Associated Press now reports a new development in Bales’ case. The Army has dropped one murder charge — from 17 — but it’s also slapped on others:
Bales now faces 16 counts of premeditated murder; six of attempted murder; seven of assault; one of possessing steroids; one of using steroids; one of destroying a laptop computer; one of burning bodies; and one of using alcohol.
His lawyer, Attorney Emma Scanlan, told the AP she just received the new charges on Friday. The Army also handed over 5,000 pages of discovery material — information collected before trial — so that all parties can go to court with as much knowledge as possible. There aren’t supposed to be any secrets.
Bales has previously claimed he doesn’t remember anything from the night.
The number of people he’s accused of killing has been a point of contention, with villagers mounting some shocking accusations of there being more than one soldier involved in the massacre.
Yalda Hakim at SBS Network and cameraman Ryan Sheridan were the first Western journalists to retrace Bales’ steps from Camp Belambai, in Kandahar province, to the nearby villages where he opened fire on sleeping families earlier this year.
With extraordinary access, Hakim spoke with the survivors — including young children — about what happened. Bales’ legal team has previously complained they were barred from speaking to witnesses, so Hakim’s report is a rarity.
The night of March 11, Robert Bales slipped off base and melted into the small Afghan village of Alkozai
Once there he opened fire upon scores of sleeping men, women and children — like this boy who was narrowly missed by a bullet that struck just under his head
Bales was stationed at Camp Belambai and it's unclear how he made his way past security and off the base alone, at night
When he concluded some unknown schedule in Alkozai, Bales made his way through the dark back to Camp Belambai where he was spotted by an Afghan guard
Australian journalist Yalda Hakim is the first Western journalist to visit the village and she talked to witnesses and retraced Bales' steps that night into the bloodstained homes
The village is in a Taliban stronghold and Bales was constantly on patrol — it was his fourth tour on the front lines
At 02:30 in the morning, Bales left base again and this time headed south to the village of Najiban where he again went door-to-door shooting Afghans
President Karzai's chief investigator General Karimi says villagers saw different boot prints and evidence of a kneeling position of up to four different people
The villages Alkozai and Najiban have now been heavily mined with insurgent IEDs in retaliation for the shootings
Again, Bales walked back to Camp Belambai. By this time, an Afghan guard had sounded the alarm that an American had left the base. He was stopped and surrendered without a fight
Robert Bales was whisked out of Afghanistan, infuriating the local population and Afghan investigators. He's now in custody at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, awaiting his fate
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