WASHINGTON (CNN) – Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales will be charged with 17 counts of murder and six counts of assault and attempted murder related to a March 11 shooting spree in Afghanistan, a senior U.S. defense official said Thursday.
The charges are expected to be announced Friday. The official could not explain why the count is now 17,when 16 have been reported killed in the incident.
Bales was flown out of Afghanistan last week and is being held at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Afghans are insisting that the suspect be returned to Afghanistan to face trial, even as villagers and lawmakers question the U.S. military’s account of what happened. But a military official said in Afghanistan on Sunday that Bales will be tried in the United States.
The rampage has strained already-tense U.S.-Afghan relations and intensified a debate about whether to pull American troops ahead of their planned 2014 withdrawal. Afghan President Hamid Karzai demanded that troops withdraw from villages and return to their bases. He said relations between the two countries were “at the end of their rope.”