The US has reportedly paid the Afghan families of those killed in a shooting rampage allegedly carried out by US soldier Robert Bales tens of thousands of dollars in compensation.
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Afghan officials and villagers have counted 16 dead — 12 in the village of Balandi and four in Alkozai, according to the Associated Press, adding that the US military had charged Bales with 17 murders without explaining the discrepancy.
Agence France-Presse cited Afghan government officials as saying Sunday that the families of the dead received 2.3 million Afghanis ($46,000) each, while the injured were paid 500,000 Afghanis.
The AP put the figure at $50,000 per victim, with the families being paid the money at a private ceremony at the Kandahar provincial governor's office on Saturday.
They were told that the money came from US President Barack Obama, Kandahar provincial council member Agha Lalai told the AP.
The officials told AFP simply that the funds were provided by the US military, and said that American officers were present at the event on Saturday.
However, a NATO spokesman declined to confirm any payment had been made.
"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," the AP quoted Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings as saying.
The killings — mostly of women and children — occurred in the Panjwai district and have tested the already tense relationship between Washington and Kabul.
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In a separate report, The New York Times cited military investigators as saying that the killings took place in two separate operations on the same evening.
A source told the paper that investigators believed Bales left his combat outpost in southern Afghanistan to carry out the first set of killings, then returned before leaving again later that evening to attack a second village.
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