U.S. soldier accused of shooting Afghans defers plea

TACOMA, Wash. Thu Jan 17, 2013 12:35pm EST

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TACOMA, Wash. Jan 17 (Reuters) - A U.S. soldier accused of killing 16 villagers in Afghanistan deferred his plea to charges of premeditated murder before a U.S. military court on Thursday.

U.S. prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, a veteran of four combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, who is accused of gunning down the villagers - mostly women and children - in their homes in two villages in Afghanistan's Kandahar province.

Bales, wearing green military dress, entered his deferred plea through one of his defense attorneys, who also waived reading of charges against Bales.

Bales answered "Sir, yes sir" when asked if he understood his case could result in the death penalty.

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