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US Soldier Sentenced to 24 Years in Prison in Afghan Murder Case

In this courtroom sketch made Wednesday, March 23, 2011, Spc. Jeremy Morlock, center, of Wasilla, Alaska, is shown with his attorney, left, and Military Judge Lt. Col. Kwasi Hawks, right during a court martial at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington sta

A U.S. soldier accused of being part of a squad that deliberately killed Afghan civilians pleaded guilty to murder and other charges Wednesday and was sentenced to 24 years in prison.

During a court martial in the state of Washington, military judge Lieutenant Colonel Kwasi Hawks said he intended to sentence 22-year-old Army Specialist Jeremy Morlock to life in prison with possibility of parole but was bound by the plea deal. He said Morlock will get 352 days off of his sentence for time served.

Morlock was the first of five soldiers to be court-martialed for murdering three civilians in southern Kandahar province last year. He is expected to testify against the other soldiers. He told the judge "the plan was to kill people."

Morlock was charged with three counts of murder, and one count each of conspiracy to commit assault and battery, obstructing justice, and illegal drug use.

The court martial came days after the German news magazine Der Spiegel published graphic photos showing Morlock and other soldiers posing and smiling over the bodies of dead civilians.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.