Afghans: US paid $50,000 per shooting spree death

MIRWAIS KHAN Associated Press Published:

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) -- The United States has paid $50,000 in compensation for each Afghan killed in the shooting spree attributed to a U.S. soldier in southern Afghanistan, an Afghan official and a community elder said Sunday.

The families of the dead received the money Saturday at the governor's office, said Kandahar provincial council member Agha Lalai. Each wounded person received $11,000 Lalai said. Community elder Jan Agha confirmed the same figures.

They were told that the money came from U.S. President Barack Obama, Lalai said.

A U.S. official confirmed that compensation had been paid but declined to discuss exact amounts, saying only that it reflected the devastating nature of the incident. The official spoke anonymously because of the sensitive nature of the subject.

A spokesman for NATO and U.S. forces declined to confirm or deny the payments, saying that while coalition members often make compensation payments, they are usually kept private.

"As the settlement of claims is in most cases a sensitive topic for those who have suffered loss, it is usually a matter of agreement that the terms of the settlement remain confidential," Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings said.

Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is accused of sneaking out of his base before dawn on March 11 then creeping into the houses of two nearby villages and opening fire on sleeping families within.

It was not immediately clear how much money had been paid out in all. Afghan officials and villagers have counted 16 dead -- 12 in the village of Balandi and four in neighboring Alkozai -- and six wounded. The U.S. military has charged Bales with 17 murders without explaining the discrepancy.

The 38-year-old soldier is accused of using his 9mm pistol and M-4 rifle, which was outfitted with a grenade launcher, to kill four men, four women, two boys and seven girls, then burning some of the bodies. The ages of the children were not disclosed in the charge sheet.

The families had previously received smaller compensation payments from Afghan officials.

Also Sunday, officials said that a bomb exploded in the south of the country as a foot patrol of Afghan and NATO forces was passing by the previous day, killing nine Afghans and one international service member.

The group was patrolling through Arghandab district in Kandahar province late Saturday when it was caught in the blast, said Shah Mohammad, the district administrator. Arghandab is a farming region just outside Kandahar city that has long been a bed-down area for Taliban insurgents. It was one of a number of communities around Kandahar city that were targeted in a 2010 sweep to oust the insurgency from the area.

The Afghan dead included one soldier, three police officers, four members of the Afghan "local police" -- a government-sponsored militia force -- and one translator, Mohammad said.

NATO reported earlier Sunday that one of its service members was killed in a bomb attack in southern Afghanistan on Saturday but did not provide additional details. It was not clear if this referred to the same incident, as NATO usually waits for individual coalition nations to confirm the details of deaths of their troops.