WASHINGTON — U.S. investigators believe the U.S. soldier accused of killing 17 Afghan civilians split the slaughter into two episodes, returning to his base after the first attack and later slipping away to kill again, the Associated Press reported Saturday, quoting two unnamed U.S. officials.
This scenario seems to support the U.S. government's assertion — contested by some Afghans — that the killings were done by one person, since they would have been perpetrated over a longer period of time than assumed when Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales was detained March 11 outside his base in Afghanistan.
But it also raises new questions about how Bales, who was formally charged Friday with 17 counts of premeditated murder and other crimes, could have carried out the nighttime attacks without drawing attention from any Americans on the Kandahar province base.
Many details about the killings, including a possible motive, have not been made public. The documents released by the U.S. military Friday in connection with the murder charges do not include a timeline of what is alleged to have happened.
Bales, 38, is accused of killing nine Afghan children and eight adults. The bodies were found in Balandi and Alkozai villages in Kandahar.
Bales is being held in a military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.