REPORTING FROM KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — The U.S. government has paid $50,000 in compensation for each of the Afghan villagers who were killed in a shooting rampage in which an American soldier faces murder charges, Afghan officials said Sunday. Families of the wounded received $11,000 per injured victim.
The sum is unusually large for deaths and injuries attributed to Western troops — a reflection, U.S. officials said, of the scope and significance of the case. The shootings are the most serious alleged war crime by a Western service member to come to light in the course of the 10-year conflict.
The American military did not publicly confirm the sums paid out in the killings in Kandahar province’s Panjwayi district, but a member of the Kandahar provincial council, Agha Lalai Dastgeeri, confirmed the amount of the payments, as did Jaan Agha, a tribal elder in Panjwayi.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales faces 17 counts of "premeditated" homicide, as well as other charges in connection with the March 11 assault on villagers living close to his base. The count of fatalities by Afghan officials and relatives was 16; the discrepancy has not been explained.
Separately, the families are receiving smaller payments from the Afghan government.
Elsewhere in Kandahar province, a bomb killed seven members of the Afghan security forces, together with a Western service member and an interpreter, Afghan officials said. The explosion took place Saturday evening in Arghandab district, which like Panjwayi lies just outside Kandahar city, the main hub of the south.
A U.S.-led campaign two years ago drove insurgents from longtime strongholds in districts surrounding the city, but Taliban fighters have been filtering back, and the area remains dangerous.
Shah Mohammad Ahmadi, the Arghandab district chief, said the Afghans were carrying out a joint patrol in the village of Kohak when their convoy struck an IED, or improvised explosive device. The Taliban claimed responsibility.
— Aimal Yaqubi
Photo: Afghan police and residents stand around a minivan carrying the bodies of victims. Credit: I. Sameem / EPA.