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US soldier to face court martial over Afghan killings

world Updated: Dec 04, 2010 13:17 IST

AFP
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A member of a rogue US army unit that allegedly killed Afghan civilians for sport has waived his right to a pre-trial hearing and will face a full court martial, officials said.

Specialist Adam Winfield, the first to waive the right, is charged with premeditated murder over the May killing of an Afghan man who prosecutors say died after soldiers threw a grenade at him, then shot him with a rifle.

The 21-year-old, one of a dozen soldiers facing charges ranging from violating army protocol to murder and taking body parts from the victims, is also charged with smoking hashish, according to an army statement.

The accused all belong to Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, from the 2nd Infantry Division's Stryker Brigade stationed at Forward Operating Base Ramrod in southern Afghanistan.

Winfield's decision to avoid a pre-trial hearing and go straight to full court martial came on the heels of a plea deal taken earlier this week by another accused soldier, Sergeant Robert Stevens.

On Wednesday, Stevens received a nine-month jail sentence and a demotion to private for shooting at people working in a field while on patrol in Afghanistan. Stevens claims he intentionally missed.

In exchange for evading a dishonourable discharge, Stevens will testify against the other members of his unit, including alleged ring-leader Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs.

In taking his plea deal, Stevens claimed the order to shoot came from Gibbs.

Winfield could also have a significant role in helping prosecutors' case against Gibbs.

Winfield's father Christopher said in September that his son sent him Facebook messages from Afghanistan claiming that Gibbs was getting away with murder.

According to the elder Winfield, his son feared that saying anything would put his life in jeopardy.

The army has not scheduled a date for Winfield's full court martial.