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Staff Sgt. Bales apologizes for Afghan massacre

Staff Sgt. Robert Bales left appears before Judge Col. Jeffery Nance during sentencing hearing slayings 16 civilians killed during pre-dawn

Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, left, appears before Judge Col. Jeffery Nance during a sentencing hearing in the slayings of 16 civilians killed during pre-dawn raids on two villages on March 11, 2012. | AP Photo/Peter Millett

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JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. — The U.S. soldier who massacred 16 Afghan villagers apologized for his “act of cowardice” as he made his case for why he should one day have a shot at freedom.

Staff Sgt. Robert Bales said Thursday that he was operating “behind a mask of fear ... and bravado” when he went on a solo nighttime mission and slaughtered villagers in mud-walled huts.

Bales, 39, pleaded guilty in June in a deal to avoid the death penalty for the attacks on March 11, 2012. A jury is determining if his life sentence should offer a chance of parole.

Bales says he was mad at himself for being angry all the time, drinking too much and hiding his problems.

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