As the U.S. military pursues charges against the Army sergeant accused of killing Afghan civilians in what commanders say was a freelance rampage, there continues to be a discrepancy between the official count of those killed and the murder count Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is charged with.
The word of 17 murders first leaked Thursday evening. Earlier that same day the commander of all U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan made no mention of the number being higher.
"Just as tragic, we're now investigating what appears to be the murder of 16 innocent Afghan civilians at the hand of a U.S. servicemember," Gen. John Allen told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
On Friday, Bales was charged with 17 counts of murder "with premeditation" in the March 11 slayings in the Panjwai district of Afghanistan's Kandahar Province. But Afghan authorities have said there were 16 people killed in the Panjwai killings.
Sunday, two Afghan provincial council members said the United States has paid the victims' families a total of $860,000 - $10,000 for each of the six wounded survivors, and $50,000 apiece for the 16 dead.
Afghan government officials in Kabul have said they have no record of another death. A U.S. official confirmed that a payment had been made on Saturday - but the official, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the situation, said he could not comment on the figure involved.
The discrepancy has persisted since Friday, when the charge sheet on Bales listed four women among 17 victims, while initial U.S. and Afghan reports listed three women among 16 dead.
A NATO spokesman, Col. Gary Kolb, said Friday only that investigators assigned to the case felt they had evidence to charge Bales with 17 counts of murder.