The US army has dropped a murder charge, but added others, including steroid use, against a soldier accused in a deadly shooting rampage in Afghanistan, his lawyer said.
Staff Sergeant Robert Bales is now accused of gunning down 16 civilians instead of 17 in a pre-dawn raid on two Afghan villages in March.
Bales attorney Emma Scanlan said she received the new charges on Friday and that there was nothing surprising in them.
There had been talk for some time that the number of victims in the massacre had been over-counted. "We're looking forward to putting on a defence and seeing what they can prove," Scanlan said.
Scanlan also said the army dropped off 5,000 pages of discovery materials at her office on Friday.
Bales now faces 16 counts of premeditated murder; six of attempted murder; seven of assault; one of possessing steroids; one of using steroids; one of destroying a laptop computer; one of burning bodies; and one of using alcohol.
"At some point, steroid use could become an issue in this case, and where he got it could become an issue in this case,'' said Bales' other lawyer, John Henry Browne. He declined to comment further.
Bales, a father of two, is accused of walking off the base where he was deployed in southern Afghanistan with a 9 mm pistol and M-4 rifle outfitted with a grenade launcher.
Officials say he walked to two local villages, where he killed the villagers and then burned some of their bodies.
Bales is based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, but is being held at the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
In a seperate case, the US army said it was investigating allegations of further misconduct by a Marine unit in Afghanistan that triggered outrage after members were seen in a video urinating on bloodstained corpses.
US leaders in January condemned the behavior of the Marine unit and promised a full investigation.
In the video, one Marine was heard saying, "Have a great day, buddy," as he urinated on the body of a suspected Taliban fighter.
During the probe, the Marine Corps "uncovered indications that there perhaps could have been more wrongdoing by people in that unit and so they've - prudently, I think - asked for another inquiry," Captain John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters.
Captain Kendra Motz, a Marine Corps spokeswoman, said that the investigation was needed "to have as complete of an understanding as possible of what actions took place".
"The investigation is being conducted by a post-combat command Marine Corps colonel, and will be completed by mid-June 2012," she said. Officials declined to give details on the allegations of further misconduct.
The men in the urination video are from a sniper unit in the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines based at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
Military authorities have not revealed the findings of its investigations or decided whether to punish the four Marines, whose names have not been released.
The military has completed two investigations on the urination video, one conducted by Naval Criminal Investigative Service to determine if any criminal activity had taken place and the other probe looking at factors that may have led to the incident, Kotz said.
The video and the deadly rampage were two of a series of embarrassing incidents for the US military that have frayed trust just as the US prepares to end its combat mission and hand over operations to Afghan forces.
In February and March, around 40 people died in violent protests across Afghanistan after US forces accidentally burned copies of the Koran at their base.
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|William A. Cook|