Bales Apologizes for 'Act of Cowardice' in Murder of 16 Afghan Civilians

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JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. (AP) - The U.S. soldier who massacred 16 Afghan civilians during pre-dawn raids in Kandahar Province last year has apologized for the first time for his "act of cowardice."

But at a sentencing hearing Thursday at a military base south of Seattle Staff, Sgt. Robert Bales did not recount specifics of the attacks and could not explain the atrocities.

Bales pleaded guilty in June. A military jury is considering whether the soldier's life sentence should include the chance of parole.

The father of two was serving his fourth combat deployment when he left his outpost in the middle of the night to attack two villages. He slaughtered men, women and children, some who were screaming for his mercy.

His attorneys have suggested that post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury may have played a role in the killings. At the hearing, however, they offered no testimony from psychiatrists or other doctors to back that up.

Lawyers are to present closing arguments Friday.