U.S. Paid Cash to Families of Murdered Afghan Civilians

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A mourner cries over the bodies of Afghan civilians, allegedly shot by a rogue US soldier, seen loaded into the back of a truck in Alkozai village of Panjwayi district, Kandahar province on March 11, 2012. An AFP reporter counted 16 bodies -- including women and children -- in three Afghan houses after a rogue US soldier walked out of his base and began shooting civilians early Sunday. NATO's International Security Assistance Force said it had arrested a soldier "in connection to an incident that resulted in Afghan casualties in Kandahar province", without giving a figure for the dead or wounded. AFP PHOTO/ JANGIR (Photo credit should read JANGIR/AFP/Getty Images)
JANGIR/AFP/Getty Images Photo: JANGIR/2012 AFP

The United States government has given a total of $860,000 to the relatives of the victims of Sergeant Robert Bales's March 11 shooting rampage, which left sixteen civilians (including nine children) dead. American officials confirmed the payments, though they refused to discuss the specific amounts. According to various reports, the families of those killed received about $50,000, while those of the wounded got around $11,000. As Haji Nyamat Khan, a member of Kandahar's provincial council, told it, "The American official who handed over the money to the families said it was not compensation, but the U.S. government offering to help the victims and their families." However, another council member, Haji Agha Lalai, had a slightly different understanding of what happened, telling reporters, "The Americans came to Panjwai and handed over compensation to the families." That account was backed up by Colonel Gary Kolb of NATO's International Security Assistance Force, who also called the money "compensation." The specific language used to describe the situation could be important here because, as CNN points out, "It was not immediately clear if the word used to describe the payment had legal significance in Afghanistan, where 'blood money' can replace a trial or punishment of a killer."