|Sixteen Afghan villagers, including nine children and three women, were slaughtered inside their homes [Reuters]
The lawyer for the US army staff sergeant accused of slaughtering 16 Afghan civilians in a pre-dawn shooting rampage has met his client for the first time and said the soldier has a sketchy memory of the night of the massacre.
Lawyer John Henry Browne said on Monday that Robert Bales remembers some details from before and after the killings, but very little or nothing from the time the military believes he went on a shooting spree through two Afghan villages.
"He has some memory of some things that happened that night. He has some memories of before the incident and he has some memories of after the incident. In between, very little," Browne told The Associated Press news agency by telephone from Fort Leavenworth, where Bales is being held since Friday.
Pressed on whether Bales can remember anything about the shooting, Browne said, "No," but added, "I haven't gotten that far with him yet." In an earlier interview with CBS News, Browne said unequivocally that Bales could not remember the shootings.
Bales, 38, has not been charged yet in the March 11 shootings, though charges could come this week. The killings sparked protests in Afghanistan, endangered relations between the two countries and threatened to upend US policy over the decade-old war.
Meanwhile, Bales' wife, Karilyn, offered her condolences to the victims' families and said she wants to know what happened. She said her family and her in-laws are profoundly sad. She said what they have read and seen in news reports is "completely out of character of the man I know and admire".
Families of the victims, as well as the Afghan president Hamid Karzai, have claimed that more than one soldier was involved in the massacre.
The president also accused the US of not co-operating with the team he sent to investigate the incident immediately after it happened.