The United States has paid thousands of dollars in compensation to relatives of each of the 17 Afghan civilians killed in a shooting rampage by a U.S. soldier in southern Afghanistan earlier this month, media reports citing unnamed Afghan officials said Sunday.
Each of the families of those killed in shooting rampage reportedly received about $50,000 in compensation, while the injured were paid $11,000 at a private ceremony at the Kandahar provincial governor's office on Saturday.
The funds were reportedly provided by the U.S. military. Nevertheless, local officials in Kandahar as well as the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan declined to confirm whether any payments had been made over the killings.
The U.S. soldier accused of the killings, Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, was charged on Friday with 17 counts of premeditated murder over the massacre. He faces the death penalty is convicted of the charges. He is facing trial under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
According to the U.S. version of events, Bales walked out of his military base in Panjwai district around 03 a.m. local time on March 11, and gunned down civilians in four houses in two neighboring villages in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar. The rogue soldier, who is said to have been suffering from a nervous breakdown, then surrendered to U.S. military authorities at the base.
Nevertheless, Afghan officials have questioned the U.S. claim that only one of its soldiers was involved in the incident, pointing out that the accounts of villagers targeted in the shooting indicate that multiple U.S. soldiers took part in the massacre.
Despite the demand for trying the accused publicly in Afghanistan, the U.S. military flew him to Kuwait on March 14 and later ferried him to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, where he is being held in pre-trial confinement.
The deadly shooting spree has soured U.S.-Afghan relations, with Afghan President Hamid Karzai demanding the immediate withdrawal of NATO and U.S. forces from villages in the war-torn country.
The killings had triggered an outrage across Afghanistan, with thousands taking to the streets demanding justice. The Taliban pledged to avenge the killings and called off peace talks with the U.S.
The shooting incident took place amid tension triggered by the burning of copies of the Holy Koran at the U.S. airbase in Bagram last month. The incident had evoked widespread protests with attacks on international troops across Afghanistan, resulting in the death of at least 30 people.
by RTT Staff Writer
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