In a statement from Kabul, the U.S. military said Bales was also charged with assaulting and attempting to murder six other Afghan civilians during a rampage in the early morning hours of March 11. Most of the dead were women and children, and some of the bodies were burned, U.S. and Afghan officials have said.
Col. Gary Kolb, a U.S. military spokesman in Kabul, said Bales is alleged to have walked off base armed with a 9mm pistol and an M-4 rifle with a grenade launcher.
The U.S. military released charging documents in the case but redacted the names of victims in the shootings. Military officials have not provided a timeline of the events surrounding the killings or offered a motive for the alleged crimes.
The massacre, in the Panjwai district of Kandahar province, has roiled relations between the United States and Afghanistan at a time when American commanders are seeking to stabilize the country in preparation for an eventual U.S. exit. President Obama has promised to hold accountable “anyone responsible” for the killings.
In its statement, the military said Bales acted with pre-meditation and that he could be subject to the death penalty if the case proceeds to court-martial and he is convicted.
Bales’s civilian attorney has said his client does not remember much about what happened on March 11, when the military alleges he committed the massacre and returned to the base on his own to surrender.
“This is going to be a very difficult case for the government to prove, in my opinion,” the lawyer, John Henry Browne, said on “CBS This Morning” on Friday. “There is no crime scene. There is no, you know, there’s no ‘CSI’ stuff. There’s no DNA. There’s no fingerprints. It’s just going to be interesting to see how the government’s going to prove this.”
Bales had deployed three times to Iraq. He arrived in Afghanistan for the first time in December with other members of the 3rd Stryker Combat Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, a unit from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state.
Bales called his wife, Kari, from Afghanistan after U.S. forces took him into custody March 11, and told her “something terrible happened,” a Seattle attorney for Kari Bales said Friday.
But the soldier uttered that phrase “in the context that he was custody in jail and not in the sense of ‘I did something terrible,’ ” said Seattle attorney Lance S. Rosen, who is representing Kari Bales in dealings with the media.
The lawyer said Bales was told he could call his wife briefly by military officials detaining him. “I know very little about the call and what was said,” said Rosen, who is not on the defense team for Robert Bales.