Soldier sentenced to life in prison over Afghan killings

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An American soldier was sentenced on Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for killing 16 Afghan civilians on their family compounds in a nighttime rampage last year.

Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, a veteran of four combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, has admitted to slaughtering the villagers, mostly women and children, in attacks on their family compounds in Kandahar province in March 2012.

Bales pleaded guilty to the killings in June in a deal that spared him the death penalty.

The jury of six military personnel deliberated less than two hours before deciding Bales should spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Both sides made closing arguments Friday morning at the conclusion of sentencing proceedings at Joint Base Lewis-McChordnear Tacoma in Washington state.

“He wiped out generations and he ruined lives forever,” said prosecutor Lieutenant Colonel Jay Morse. “He should be known by one official title from this day until the day he dies: inmate.”

Army prosecutors have said Bales acted alone and with premeditation when, armed with a pistol, a rifle and a grenade launcher, he left his outpost twice during the night, returning in the middle of his rampage to tell a fellow soldier, “I just shot up some people.”

The killings marked the worst case of civilian deaths blamed on a U.S. soldier since the Vietnam War and further eroded strained U.S.-Afghan relations after more than a decade of conflict in Afghanistan.

Defense attorneys have said Bales carried out the killings after suffering a breakdown under the pressure of the last of his four deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. They have said he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and a brain injury even before shipping off to Kandahar province.

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