An American soldier suspected of killing civilians in Afghanistan may today be charged with 17 counts of murder, emerging information from United States officials has shown. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
Staff Sgt Robert Bales is accused of attacking the villagers in their homes in Kandahar province on 11 March. Most victims were women and children.
Sgt Bales, 38, was later moved to a military prison in the US after being transported from Afghanistan to Kuwait.
Sgt Bales would also be charged with six counts of assault and attempted murder, a US official hinted.
The charges are to be read to the soldier at the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, later on Friday, according to the Associated Press news agency.
The Taliban said on Friday that it had no faith in any trial of Sgt Bales.
“This was a planned activity and we will certainly take revenge on all American forces in Afghanistan and don’t trust such trials,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters news agency by telephone.
Sgt Bales is the only known suspect in the killings – despite repeated Afghan assertions that more than one American was involved. He is being held in solitary confinement at Fort Leavenworth.
His lawyer, who has played down reports that his client was drunk on the night of the killings, said earlier this week Sgt Bales remembers “very little” of the incident.
John Henry Brown said there was “no forensic evidence” against him and “no confession”.
The lawyer said Sgt Bales had received body and brain injuries while serving in Iraq and was unhappy about going for another tour of duty. He had already completed three tours in Iraq.
Mr Brown also said his client – whom he described as “a decorated soldier” with an exemplary record before the shooting – had witnessed his friend’s leg blown off the day before the killings.
The case has undermined US relations with Kabul and led to calls for Nato to speed up its planned withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
Sgt Bales’ trial could take years, contrasting with Afghan demands for swift and decisive justice.
The Taliban called off peace talks in the wake of the deadly rampage.