(NEW YORK) — Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the American soldier accused of slaughtering 17 Afghan civilians, stopped at his military base between killings, a U.S. official told ABC News.
The official says it was Bales’ second departure from Camp Bellambay that led to a search party being organized to look for Bales after he was not found present for a muster organized to see if anyone was missing from the base.
Bales was detained after he returned on his own accord to the base after the attack on the second village. U.S. officials say there is aerial surveillance video taken by a security blimp located over the base that shows Bales in a prone position making his way back to the base after the second attack. His detention is not shown on the video.
The U.S. official confirmed that investigators believe that Bales returned to the base after the attack on the first village, but does not believe that he was detected leaving the base the first time.
“We know he made two trips,” said the U.S. official, who would not provide details as to how investigators know that Bales returned to the base in between the attacks, though he said there is no video showing Bales returning to the base the first time.
The official did not know Bales’ motivation in returning to the base the first time.
Bales was officially charged Friday with 17 counts of murder, six counts of attempted murder and six counts of aggravated assault, military officials said.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ralph Ellis, Ben Wedeman and Michael Pearson, CNN
Steve Almasy, CNN