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Military: Fetus not among 17 Afghan massacre victims

Kari Bales, the wife of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the soldier who stands accused of murdering 17 Afghan civilians, talks exclusively to TODAY's Matt Lauer about the "devastating" accusations against her husband, saying "this is not him."

The Army said Monday that an unborn child was not among the 17 victims in the shooting massacre of civilians in two villages in Afghanistan allegedly perpetrated by Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, contradicting an Afghan official who spoke to The New York Times.

Kandahar Province Police Chief Brig. Gen. Abdul Raziq told The New York Times that one of the slain females was pregnant and Americans were counting her unborn fetus as a victim. But Army Lt. Col. Jimmie E. Cummings, Jr., told msnbc.com a fetus was not among the victims of the March 11 attacks in which Bales, 38, is charged with premeditated murder.

“The information that we have collected up to now, this is not true,” Cummings, a spokesman for NATO's ISAF & U.S. Forces - Afghanistan, wrote in an email to msnbc.com. “The 17th is not from a pregnant female or any of the wounded passing away. At this time, the evidence available to the prosecution team indicates 17 victims of premeditated murder and 6 victims of assault and attempted premeditated murder.” 

The death toll breaks down to four men and women each, and nine children, Cummings wrote. One man and one woman, plus four more children, were wounded.

“I think one of the things you can assume is that it was difficult to collect evidence in this case and it was difficult for them to necessarily identify every victim right away,” said Michael Navarre, a director of the National Institute of Military Justice and a former Navy prosecutor and defense counsel.

New details emerged over the weekend in the case. Military prosecutors told NBC News that the attacks came in two waves, with Bales allegedly returning to his base after the first attack and then slipping out again.

Military prosecutors allege that Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, accused of a deadly rampage which left 17 Afghan civilians dead, came in two waves, with Bales returning to his base after the first attack and then slipping out again. NBC's John Yang reports.

The father of two from Bellevue, Wash., was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder, six counts of attempted murder and six counts of assault. He is being held at a U.S. military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

His wife, Karilyn Bales, said she did not believe her husband had done this.

“I don't think anything will really change my mind in believing that he did not do this,’’ she told TODAY’s Matt Lauer in an exclusive interview that aired Monday. “This is not what it appears to be.’’

Military wives rally around Karilyn Bales

“I just don't think he was involved,’’ she said. “I don't know enough information. This is not him. It's not him."

The timeline of the killings remains unclear. One Afghan guard working from midnight to 2 a.m. saw a U.S. soldier return at 1:30 a.m., and the guard’s replacement saw a U.S. soldier leaving the base at 2:30 a.m., but it was unclear whether it was the same soldier.

There are reports that there is surveillance video, and that Bales allegedly walked back to the base and turned himself in.

For alleged Afghan shooter, death penalty unlikely

Karilyn Bales said her husband was fit for a fourth deployment and that she was not aware of any obvious signs of post-traumatic stress disorder or the traumatic brain injury that he allegedly suffered on one of his tours. 

Bales was on his fourth tour in a war zone since signing up for the Army after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. He had spent three years in Iraq on his previous tours, during which time he lost part of a foot and suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) due to a vehicle rollover, media reports say. Two days before he allegedly attacked the Afghan villagers, he saw the aftermath of a bombing in which a fellow soldier had his leg blown off, The Associated Press reported.

Some military law experts interviewed by msnbc.com said they expect the defense to mount a legal pincer attack, in which Bales’ attorneys may try to win acquittal by attacking the evidence but have a fallback position aimed at winning a lesser sentence than the death penalty -- which Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said could be sought in this case.

How Staff Sgt. Bales' lawyers are fighting for his life

Gary Solis, former head of the Marine Corps’ Military Law Branch and current adjunct professor of law at Georgetown Law School, said the fact that the crime occurred in a combat zone in a distant country complicates the task for prosecutors given the possibility of numerous crime scene complications. But they agreed that pursuing an insanity defense based on PTSD would be a difficult case to make, too.

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