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US soldier pleads guilty to killing 16 Afghan civilians

Staff Sergeant Robert Bales pleaded guilty to the premeditated murder of 16 Afghan civilians on Wednesday in order to comply with a plea deal and avoid the death penalty. Bales admitted [Reuters report] to leaving his post last March in the Kandahar province in order seek out and murder civilians. Bales read the individual charges against him detailing each specific instance in detail. The murders represent the worst case of murder of civilians on the part of military personnel since the Vietnam War. Once the plea deal is accepted by the court martial judge, Bales will be given life in prison without the possibility of parole.

This is the latest development in the case against Bales. The prosecution announced last November that they would seek the death penalty [JURIST report]. That announcement came just one week after hearings in the case began [JURIST report]. The charges of alcohol and steroid usage was added [JURIST report] last June. The first charges were filed [JURIST report] last March. There have also been other incidents of US military personnel killing civilians. Last February the US Army dropped charges [JURIST report] against Army Specialist Michael Wagnon, the last of five soldiers to be charged in connection with the killing of three Afghan civilians.

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