A U.S. soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians has agreed to plead guilty to avoid the death penalty.
Robert Bales is accused of gunning down villagers -- mostly women and children -- in attacks on their family compounds in Kandahar Province in March 2012 in one of the worst atrocities of the Afghanistan war.
Lawyers for Bales say he will plead guilty to premeditated murder charges and would then go before a military jury for sentencing to determine whether a life prison term for his crimes would include the possibility of parole.
The killings sparked angry protests in Afghanistan, forcing the U.S. military to temporarily halt combat operations in Afghanistan.
Defense attorneys have argued that Bales was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and a brain injury even before his deployment to Afghanistan.
Based on reporting by AP and Reuters