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Soldier Accused In Afghan Shooting Rampage To Plead Guilty

Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales pictured in Aug. 2011.

Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, charged with the murder of 16 Afghan villagers in one of the worst atrocities of the American-led war in that country, will plead guilty as part of a deal to avoid the death penalty, his attorney told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Bales' attorney, John Henry Browne, says his client was "crazed" and "broken" in March 2012 when he entered a village in southern Kandahar province and opened fire on sleeping Afghan civilians. He said Bales would plead guilty next week.

The AP writes:

"The Army had been trying to have Bales executed, and Afghan villagers have demanded it. In interviews with the AP in Kandahar last month, relatives of the victims became outraged at the notion Bales might escape the death penalty.

Any plea deal must be approved by the judge as well as the commanding general at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where Bales is being held. A plea hearing is set for June 5, said Lt. Col. Gary Dangerfield, an Army spokesman. He said he could not immediately provide other details."

Army prosecutors say Bales, who had served four combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, acted alone and that he returned from his base to the village to twice on the night of the shootings to continue his killing spree.

The rampage marked the worst mass killing by a U.S. soldier acting alone since the Vietnam War.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit www.npr.org.

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