© The Associated Press/Allauddin KhanIn this Sunday, March 11, 2012 file photo, men stand next to blood stains and charred remains inside a home where witnesses say Afghans were killed by a U.S. soldier in Panjwai, Kandahar province south of Kabul, Afghanistan. U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales was charged on Friday, March 23, 2012 with 17 counts of premeditated murder, a capital offense that could lead to the death penalty in the massacre of Afghan civilians, the U.S. military said.
Kabul, Afghanistan - The families of 16 Afghan villagers who were killed this month
by a rampaging American soldier were given $50,000 by the United States for each of their relatives who died, Afghan and American officials said.
The payments were made on Saturday by American military officers at the office of the governor of Kandahar Province, where the killings took place. The people wounded in the attacks were each given $11,000, said Hajji Agha Lalai, a member of the Kandahar provincial council.
Hajji Jan Agha, who lost cousins in the killings, said he and other relatives were invited to the governor's office by foreign and Afghan officials, according to Reuters. "They said this money is an assistance from Obama," Mr. Agha was quoted as saying.
Mr. Lalai described the payments as "assistance" to the wounded and the families of the dead, but not as the kind of traditional compensation that would absolve the accused of responsibility for the crimes.
"We are grateful to the United States government for its help with the grieved families. But this cannot be counted as compensation for the deaths," he said.
In discussions before the payments were made, American officials were also careful to draw a similar distinction, saying that any eventual payments would be out of compassion for the victims, and that Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the soldier accused of killing the villagers, would still face trial.
An American official confirmed on Sunday that payments had been made to victims but refused to discuss specifics. Compensation payments are kept private as a matter of American policy, the official said, adding that it was up the recipients to decide whether to talk about what they were given.