Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales will be charged with 17 counts of murder for the massacre of Afghan villagers this month, The Post’s Craig Whitlock and Carol Morello report. He will formally be charged Friday.

Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. (Spc. Ryan Hallock/AP)

The murder charges indicate that Army prosecutors think the killings of 17 villagers in Kandahar province were premeditated. They also suggest that Bales, 38, was fully aware of his actions. The sergeant has been held at a maximum-security military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., for the past week.

More of your morning links below:

Trayvon Martin

More details are emerging about George Zimmerman, the man who fatally shot unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin last month. Zimmerman was a Catholic altar boy who wanted to be a cop, but whose life was not without difficulties. Once, he was the victim of a minor criminal assault. (Washington Post)

Twenty-three states have sweeping self-defense laws. Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which gives Zimmerman an expansive right to self-defense, might be the decider in the case of Trayvon Martin’s death. Many other states have similar laws to protect a person who reacts in self-defense. (Raw Story)

Toulouse gunman

We are learning more about Mohammed Merah, the man tied to the French killing spree. Merah was on the U.S. no-fly list and had a jihadist history. He started his career as an Islamic terrorist by telling a French soldier of Muslim origin “You kill my brothers, so I am killing you,” and then shooting him. Merah himself died Thursday with a shot to the head. (Washington Post)

Sarkozy wants to jail people who browse terror Web sites. In response to the Toulouse shooting, the French president proposed a new law that would put repeat visitors of terror Web sites behind bars. (Techland-Time)

Syrian uprising

Syrian rebels are short on weapons, and a major government offensive looks as if it could possibly crush the year-long revolt. The opposition continues to ask the outside world for help and military intervention. (Washington Post)

YouTube video allegedly shows use of air power in Syria. In the video, a helicopter is seen purportedly using heavy machine gun fire on the northern Syrian city of A’zaz. If true, it would be one of the first videos to show airpower being used in the Syrian conflict. (Storyful)