Children give graphic account of Afghan murders

A courtroom sketch shows Staff Sgt. Robert Bales listening to Afghan villagers testify via video link at his military trial, Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012.
Lois Silver/CBS News

(CBS News) JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. - An American soldier, accused of a horrific war crime, watched in a courtroom as children described the murders of their families. There were two days of testimony in the case of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales.

Bales is charged with 16 counts of premeditated murder and six counts of attempted murder.

Prosecutors say that for reasons unknown, Bales walked off his post in Afghanistan in the middle of the night then shot and stabbed civilians in two villages. The hearing at a military post in Washington state was called to decide whether there is enough evidence to court martial Bales.

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Bales showed no reaction as ten Afghans told of the night their two villages were awakened by gunshots. Nine of the murder victims were children. The massacre was one of the worst crimes attributed to a U.S. serviceman in decades.

A 7-year-old named Robina told the court her father was shot "right through the throat and the chest."

"The bullet...hit me in the leg," she said.

Rafiullah is one of few eyewitness to survive a harrowing attack in his Afghan village.
Rafiullah is one of few eyewitness to survive a harrowing attack in his Afghan village. CBS News

Fifteen-year-old Rafiullah, who was shot in both legs, told the court the same story he told CBS News back in his village.

"My uncle, my little cousin and my grandmother were killed," he told CBS News, according to a translator. "I was told to put my hands on the wall"

His father, Samiullah, testified by video that he found four bodies, all shot in the head, including his own mother. "I saw her and cried" he said, "and I could not look at her face."

Bales, a 39-year-old married father of two young children, served four tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He was arrested after returning to base early in the morning of March 11 covered in blood. Fellow soldiers have testified he had been drinking. Sgt. Jason Mclaughlin said Bales admitted he'd "shot up some people." None of the massacre survivors could identify Bales as the gunman.

A courtroom sketch shows seven-year-old Zardana, who was shot in the head during the March 2012 massacres in Afghanistan and nearly died. Lois Silver/CBS News

Zardana was 7 years old when she was shot in the head. Wearing a scarf that hid her wounds, she told the court her attacker was wearing a t-shirt and khaki pants.

Fourteen-year-old Quadratullah testified that he begged the gunman not to shoot. "We kept saying we are children, we are children."

"I really want a fair trial for my husband so that the facts do come out, and my children deserve to be proud of their father because he`s sacrificed a lot for his country and he's been away from our family too often," she said.

Final arguments are tomorrow and then a military officer will recommend whether to go ahead with a full court martial, which could carry the death penalty. No American service member has been executed since 1961, when  Army private John A. Bennett was hanged after being convicted of rape and attempted murder of an 11-year-old Austrian girl.

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    John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.