The US Army [official website] announced Friday that a soldier has been charged in the deaths of three Afghan civilians in separate incidents between January and May. Specialist Jeremy Morlock of Joint Base Lewis-McChord [official website] was charged with three counts of premeditated murder [AP report] and one count of assault after being recalled from Afghanistan on Thursday. A conviction on those charges could result in life imprisonment or the death penalty. The investigation into the incidents, which took place in Kandahar province, includes as many as five other soldiers, and one other individual is already being held in Kuwait [Seattle Times report]. The news of charges may increase the challenges [The Olympian report] the US military faces as it continues its new campaign against the Taliban in Kandahar.
The Army announced in May [JURIST report] that its Criminal Investigation Command was opening an investigation into the civilian deaths in Kandahar. The charges are the latest in a number of incidents involving US soldiers in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In April, a military appeals court reversed the conviction [JURIST report] of US Marine Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III for the 2006 killing of an Iraqi civilian, citing lack of a fair trial. Hutchins was serving an 11-year sentence, reduced from 15 years [JURIST report], for his role in the April 2006 kidnapping and murder of an Iraqi civilian. In December, former soldier Steven Green appealed his conviction [JURIST report] for his role in the rape and murder of a 14-year old Iraqi girl. Green was sentenced to five consecutive life terms [JURIST report] in September.