The US Army announced on Wednesday that it would seek the death penalty for Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, who stands accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers, including women and children.
The prosecution says the soldier left his remote base in southern Afghanistan on March 11 and went on the rampage in nearby villages in the Panjwai district of Kandahar province. Bales allegedly killed four people all from the same family in the first village he visited. He then returned to his base before heading out to attack another village, where he slaughtered another 12 people. In total 9 children, 3 women and 4 men lost their lives. A further 6 people were wounded.
Agence France-Presse reports:
Bales faces 16 counts of murder, six of attempted murder, seven of assault, two of using drugs and one of drinking alcohol. Seventeen of the 22 victims were women or children and almost all were shot in the head.
While media and the military have portrayed the massacre as an isolated incident, peace activist Kathy Kelly told Democracy Now! earlier this year that it was actually a microcosm of the Afghan occupation:
I think that the United States and military officials would like to characterize the massacre as exceptional, sort of one bad apple. But I think it actually encapsulates what the United States presence in Afghanistan has been all about. Unprovoked and uncaused attacks have been waged by the United States against Afghan civilians. It isn’t as though this was one deplorable act. This soldier was assigned to a Joint Special Operations Force base, and the Joint Special Operations Forces have been engaging in the night raids on an average of 10 per night, sometimes as many as 40 per night, all across Afghanistan and killing civilians steadily. And combine that with the drone surveillance and the helicopter—combat helicopter attacks that have killed civilians.
The date for Bales' trial has not yet been set.