US soldier pleads guilty to murdering 16 Afghan civilians

June 5, 2013 21:18

TACOMA- A US Army sergeant accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians in cold blood last year pleaded guilty on Wednesday to premeditated murder and other charges under a deal with military prosecutors to avoid the death penalty.

Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, a decorated veteran of four combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, is accused of roaming off his Army post in the Afghan province of Kandahar last March and gunning down unarmed villagers, mostly women and children, in attacks on their family compounds.Prosecutors said he set fire to many of his victims.

The shootings marked the worst case of civilian slaughter blamed on a rogue US soldier since the Vietnam War and further strained US-Afghan relations after more than a decade of conflict in that country.

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