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US soldier went on killing spree in 'two separate operations'

March 25, 2012 22:16 IST

A United States soldier charged with 17 counts of murder for killing Afghan civilians earlier this month, committed the shootings during two separate operations, according to military investigators.

The New York Times quoted an American official as saying that investigators believed that Staff Sergeant Robert Bales left his Afghanistan base and carried out the first set of killings.

He then returned to the combat outpost and went out and attacked a second village later in the evening.

The official said Bales was detained after he returned to the outpost from the second trip.

The details about the incident emerged from a range of interrogations Army investigators conducted over the last several days as they tried to find out what happened on the night of March 11 and what prompted Bales to go on a killing spree, in which he targetted women and children also.

The series of events, he said, seems to support the US government's assertion that the killings were carried out by one person.

Bales, 38, was formally charged on Friday with 17 counts of premeditated murder and six counts of assault and attempted murder in connection with the attacks.

Bales is accused of sneaking out of his base before dawn into two villages in Panjwayi district of Kandahar province and killing 17 people, mostly women and children while they were sleeping.

At least six people were wounded when he fired with his 9mm pistol and M-4 rifle, which was outfitted with a grenade launcher.

Yoshita Singh in New York
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