The Afghan official who said that the 17th victim of Sgt. Robert Bales' alleged shooting spree in Kandahar province was an unborn child retracted his statement hours later, as the US Army's press chief denied that a fetus was the 17th victim, according to the New York Times.
“The Americans are right and one of the females was pregnant, which is why they are saying 17,” Brig. Gen. Abdul Raziq, the police chief in Kandahar Province, had said in an interview on Monday with the New York Times, which would explain the sudden change of the victim count from 16 to 17.
However, he took back the statement hours later.
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The US soldier was formally charged with 17 counts of murder and six counts of assault and attempted murder on Friday, Slate reported. Up until last week, Afghan officials had been saying 16 villagers were killed in the March 11 massacre.
Lt. Col. Jimmie E. Cummings Jr., a NATO spokesman in Afghanistan, said Monday that no fetus was among the count of victims, according to the Times. “Our investigators on the ground found enough evidence for charges in 17 cases,” he said. “There were no wounded who died, and no fetus.”
“[According to] the information that we have collected up to now, this is not true,” Cummings wrote in an email to msnbc.com. “The 17th is not from a pregnant female or any of the wounded passing away. At this time, the evidence available to the prosecution team indicates 17 victims of premeditated murder and 6 victims of assault and attempted premeditated murder.”
Other Afghan officials said on Monday that only 16 people were killed in Bates' rampage, according to the Times.
“The foreigners have made a mistake,” said Ahmed Jawed Faisal, head of the Kandahar Media Information Center, told the Times. “There is no 17th person dead. According to our records, it is 16.”
The military’s charge sheet against Bales lists 17 counts of murder with premeditation, and it lists the names of 16 of the victims, which are blacked out on the copy released by the army. On the fifth count of murder, however, there is no name, and the charge reads that Sergeant Bales murdered “a male of apparent Afghan descent by means of shooting him with a firearm," according to the Times.
The decision to increase the number of murder charges against Bales is in accordance with the Uniform Code of Military Justice and United States Federal Law, which allows the death of an unborn baby to be considered as a murder even if the killer was not aware of the victim's pregnancy, the International Business Times reported.
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Karilyn Bales, the accused soldier's wife, told NBC News' Matt Lauer on Monday morning that she did not believe her husband could have committed these murders.
"He loves children, he's like a big kid himself," Bales' wife said. "I have no idea what happened, but he would not ... he loves children, and he would not do that."
On Sunday, US officials reportedly paid around $50,000 per victim in compensation to their families at a private ceremony at the Kandahar provincial governor's office on Saturday, according to the Associated Press. The families were told that the money came from President Obama. They also gave compensation to those injured.
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