Thursday, February 22, 2018

Witnesses say U.S. soldier knew he killed Afghan civilians

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. — The medic saw Staff Sgt. Robert Bales covered in blood and knew from the pattern of the staining it wasn't his own. He asked where it came from and where he'd been.

Bales shrugged, Sgt. 1st Class James Stillwell, testified Tuesday. "If I tell you, you guys will have to testify against me," Stillwell quoted him as saying.

The statement was one of many attributed to Bales that suggest he knew what he was doing the night he surrendered after a two-village killing spree in southern Afghanistan, prosecutors say.

The remarks, offered by soldiers testifying for the government Monday and Tuesday, could pose a high hurdle for defense lawyers who have indicated that Bales' mental health will be a big part of their case. The testimony is part of a preliminary hearing to determine whether the case goes to a court-martial.

Defense lawyers say Bales was serving his fourth deployment, and had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and a concussive head injury in Iraq.

Bales, 39, faces 16 counts of premeditated murder and six counts of attempted murder in the March 11 attack on the villages of Balandi and Alkozai. Nine children were among the victims.

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