U.S. Soldier Sentenced To Life In Afghan Village Attacks

NPR icon by Bill Chappell
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Peter Millett

A military jury has sentenced Robert Bales, the U.S. Army staff sergeant who admits to killing 16 Afghan civilians in 2012, to life in prison without parole. During the punishment hearings held this week, Bales was confronted by family members of victims and people who survived the attacks of of March 11, 2012.

Bales, a father of two who is based in Washington state, pleaded guilty to the charges in June in order to avoid a possible death sentence in the case.

His sentence was handed down Friday by a six-member military jury assembled at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Tacoma.

The killings took place during two predawn visits Bales made to villages in Kandahar Province last spring. Armed with an M-4 rifle and a 9 mm pistol, Bales shot children and parents, brothers and sisters during his rampage; 11 members of one family died that night. Some were killed as they slept, the AP reports.

This week, Bales' defense attorneys said he was under extreme stress and had suffered trauma during his four combat deployments. Thursday, he apologized for his actions.

"I'm truly, truly sorry to those people whose families got taken away," he said, according to local KIRO TV. "I can't comprehend their loss. I think about it every time I look at my kids."

He also apologized to his former Army colleagues.

"Nothing makes it right," he said. "So many times before I've asked myself. I don't know why. Sorry just isn't good enough. I'm sorry."

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