By Laura L. Myers
TACOMA | Thu Jan 17, 2013 1:15pm EST
(Reuters) - A U.S. soldier accused of killing 16 villagers in two forays from his camp in Afghanistan deferred making a plea before a U.S. military court on Thursday to charges of premeditated murder, for which prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
U.S. Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, a veteran of four combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, is accused of gunning down the villagers - mostly women and children - in their homes in two villages in Afghanistan's Kandahar province.
Bales, 39, 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.