The United States paid $50,000 in compensation for each villager killed and $11,000 for each person wounded in a shooting rampage allegedly carried out by a rogue American soldier in southern Afghanistan, Afghan officials said Sunday.
The families were told that the orders for the money came from President Obama. The unusually large payouts were the latest move by the White House to mend relations with the Afghan people after the killings threatened to shatter already tense relations.
Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is accused of sneaking off his base on March 11, then creeping into houses in two nearby villages and opening fire on families as they slept.
Bales, 38, has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder and other crimes and could face the death penalty if convicted. He is being held in a military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
The families of the dead received the money Saturday at the governor’s office, said Kandahar provincial council member Agha Lalai. He and community elder Jan Agha confirmed the payout amounts.
Survivors previously had received smaller compensation payments from Afghan officials – $2,000 for each death and $1,000 for each person wounded.
Two U.S. officials confirmed that compensation had been paid but declined to discuss exact amounts, saying only that the payments reflected the devastating nature of the incident. The officials spoke anonymously.
A spokesman for NATO and U.S. forces, Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, said only that coalition members often make compensation payments, but they are usually kept private.
But civilian death compensations are occasionally made public. In 2010, U.S. troops in Helmand province said they paid $1,500 to $2,000 if a civilian was killed in a military operation and $600 to $1,500 for a serious injury. The Panjwai shootings are different because they were not part of a sanctioned operation, but it is a distinction lost on many Afghans who see any civilian deaths as criminal.