Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is seen in a 2011 interview in Afghanistan.

Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is seen in a 2011 interview in Afghanistan. Associated Press photo

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Bales charged on 17 counts of pre-meditated murder

The staff sergeant is the sole suspect in the shooting deaths of 17 Afghan civilians.

Staff Sgt. Robert Bales has been charged Friday with murdering 17 civilians and wounding six others, paving the way for what will be a long and politically charged trial.

The miltary said the attack was premeditated. Bales is the sole suspect in the shooting deaths of 17 Afghan civilians in southern Afghanistan this month. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Military officials believe they have a strong case. They say they have surveillance videotape showing Bales leaving the base shortly before the shootings and returning shortly afterward.

But Bales' civilian attorney, John Henry Browne, has said he plans to mount an aggressive defense based on an assertion that Bales was temporarily insane because of a severe head injury suffered during an earlier tour in Iraq.