Is It Possible 20 Were Killed at Panjwai, 3 by Another Soldier?

Update: See this post, which gives DOD’s latest update on the lack of military operations during the attack.

According to Amy Davidson, the explanation that Robert Bales’ 17th victim was an unborn child, which I noted here, has been debunked. That explanation was based on the presence of an unnamed Afghan male–listed as murder charge 5–in Bales’ charge sheet. But that explanation missed another unnamed victim–this one a female–under murder charge 4.

So let’s take a step back, and consider another possibility: that there are actually more than 17 victims, several of whom Afghans aren’t naming, and possibly at least one other solider known to have killed at least 3 Afghans as well. Here’s why I think that may be true.

First, when asked about the discrepancy in numbers yesterday, here’s how General John Allen answered.

Q:  General, one quick housekeeping thing and then a question. There’s been some ongoing confusion over the jump in the number of casualties from 16 to 17.  I was wondering if you might be able to discuss that briefly.


GEN. ALLEN:  I’m getting your one question in three parts here, so give me just a second.  And if I miss one, let me — just tell me.

There is a — there was an increase in the number of what we believe to have been those who were killed tragically in this event. But this is — the number increased was based upon the initial reporting by the Afghans.  And so we should not be surprised that in fact, as the investigation went forward, that an — that an additional number was added to that.  So that is something that we understand and we accept, and as the investigation goes forward, we’ll get greater clarity in that.


Q:  (Off mic) — 16 versus 17, did the — just to be clear — did the Afghans miscount?  Did someone die after the initial assessment?

GEN. ALLEN:  We’ll have to let that come out in the investigation.

Note that he never says 17 is the correct number. Rather, he says the original number came from the Afghans, “there was an increase in the number,” and “we’ll have to let” the correct number “come out in the investigation.”

All that is perfectly consistent with the number being greater than the 17 the reporters are working with, which is based on Bales’ charge sheet.

So now compare Bales’ charge sheet with the two lists offered by Afghans.

Bales’ charge sheet lists the following victims:

  1. Named female
  2. Named male
  3. Named male
  4. Unnamed female
  5. Unnamed male
  6. Named male
  7. Named female
  8. Named female
  9. Named female
  10. Named female
  11. Named female
  12. Named female
  13. Named female
  14. Named female
  15. Named male
  16. Named male
  17. Named male

That is, a group of 1 named female and 2 named males, an unnamed male and female, and then a group of a named male, 8 named females, then 3 named males, or a total of 9 named females, 6 named males, and an unnamed male and female (so a total of 10 females and just 7 males).

Here’s what the WSJ described:

Mullah Baran’s family (1 male victim)

  1. Mohammad Dawood

Mohammed Wazir’s family (7 female victims–one with no gunshot wounds, 4 male victims)

  1. Shah Tarina (female)
  2. Bibi Zohra (female)
  3. Nabiya (female)
  4. Farida (female)
  5. Masooma (female)
  6. Faizallah (male)
  7. Ismatullah (male)
  8. Akhar Mohammed (male)
  9. Bibi Nzaia (female)
  10. Essa Mohammed (male)
  11. Palwasha (female; note, she had no apparent bullet wounds)

Syed Jaan (1 female and 3 male victims)

  1. Wife (female)
  2. Brother (male)
  3. Brother-in-law (male)
  4. Nephew (male)

That is, from the WSJ count, we get 8 male and 8 female victims, presumably all named. The Al Jazeera list appears to match the WSJ one, assuming that Khudaydad, Nazar Mohamed, Payendo, and Robeena are Syed Jaan’s family members.

In other words, the lists coming from the Afghans have 8 males and 8 females (with the caveat that Palwasha may not have been shot and if so shouldn’t be among the Bales’ victims, all of whom were murdered by shooting with a firearm). And the US Government has a list of 10 females (9 named) and just 7 males (6 named).

So there are at least 3 people on Bales’ charge sheet (1 named female, 1 unnamed female, and 1 unnamed male) that aren’t among the Afghan lists. And there are at least 2 named males who don’t appear on Bales’ charge sheet.

That suggests two things to me, both speculation at this point. First, that the USG knows of another soldier that killed at least 3 people. And second, that the USG believes the Afghans hid the existence–and in two cases, the identity–of three of the victims of this killing.

Update: DOD Spokesperson William Speaks provided this initial response, which I consider very carefully parsed (and which of course doesn’t address the number discrepancy in the last):

The evidence available to the investigation team indicates 17 murder victims, as is outlined in the charge sheet. To suggest that Gen. Allen’s answers yesterday would be “consistent” with more victims ignores the fact that the questions posed to him were in the context of 17 rather than 16 victims.

One other possibility is that there were people killed in a night raid that are now considered legitimate victims–perhaps people who were responsible for the IED the week before the raid–in addition to 17 people who were not considered legitimate targets and therefore are being treated as murder victims.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

7 replies
  1. rugger9 says:

    I think the PTB have decided that a lone wolf scenario is the one with the minimal repercussions to the USA policymakers. Now we have the equivalent of Arlen’s magic bullet wrecking the narrative. Since the Afghans already felt there was a coverup in play this merely confirms it. The fallout will not be pretty, and we are doing nothing worthwhile there. Time to go.

    Not that I’m trying to harp on it too much, but where is the other disciplinary action for letting [at least] one soldier wander around drunk [if one believes that line] in an area full of hostiles riled up by the burning Korans? I haven’t seen that addressed anywhere, along with the strange inactivity when the shots were heard.

  2. emptywheel says:

    FWIW, my guess is that Bales was responsible for the Jaan killings, some of the Wazir killings, and some other unidentified ones as follows:

    1. Named female
    2. Named male
    3. Named male
    4. Unnamed female
    5. Unnamed male

    6. Named male (One Wazir male)
    7. Named female Shah Tarina
    8. Named female Bibi Zohra
    9. Named female Nabiya
    10. Named female Farida
    11. Named female Masooma
    12. Named female Palwasha
    13. Named female Bibi Nazim

    Syad Jaan
    14. Named female Robeena
    15. Named male Khudaydad
    16. Named male Nazar Mohamed
    17. Named male Payendo

    I think this because the big chunk of women in a row almost has to be Wazir’s family. But also because that’s the killing that would have been hardest to accomplish alone: there were 11 people (including 2 adult males and 3 fighting age teens) spread out over 3 rooms. Wazir says he thinks the women died first. I find it inconceivable there was no gun, and that he could kill all 7 women without a response from any of the men.

    THe last four match up in number and sex with Syad Jaan’s family (which was in another village, so easier to hit by himself). Which would leave MOhammad Dawood (who was in ear distance from the Wazir house, and whose killer didn’t kill the rest of the family), the 2 unnamed Afghans, plus three more I can’t explain.

  3. harpie says:

    Sorry for the o/t, Marcy, but I’m fairly sure this news was just revealed today, in Poland:

    First Criminal Charges Brought in Polish Probe of CIA Black Site; Scott Horton; Harper’s; 3/27/11

    The Warsaw-based newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza and TVP Polish Public Television are reporting that criminal charges have been brought in the long-pending investigation into torture and kidnapping associated with a CIA black site on Polish soil during 2002 and 2003. […]

    The accused says he won’t answer questions…even in court-for reasons of “national security”.

    CIA of course cites “national security interests” as their reason for opposing the release of documents.

    The US DoJ has refused to cooperate with the investigation.

    [Hi, everyone!]

  4. harpie says:

    Also o/t. [OY!]

    Argument recap: It is Kennedy’s call (FINAL UPDATE 3:14 pm); Lyle Denniston; ScotusBlog; 3/27/12 [3:14pm]

    If Justice Anthony M. Kennedy can locate a limiting principle in the federal government’s defense of the new individual health insurance mandate, or can think of one on his own, the mandate may well survive. If he does, he may take Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and a majority along with him. But if he does not, the mandate is gone. That is where Tuesday’s argument wound up — with Kennedy, after first displaying a very deep skepticism, leaving the impression that he might yet be the mandate’s savior. […]

    Isn’t this [at least kind of] what bmaz predicted?

  5. emptywheel says:

    @orionATL: A couple of reasons. First, they may be known Taliban members. Or, given that 2 are unnamed, it may be they’re not from these villages (though that seems unlikely).

    In any case, check out my update–I think DOD is distinguishing between people they believe were legitimate night raid targets and bet obviously civilian victims.

  6. orionATL says:


    harpie, thanks for these two cites. the latter is especially timely.

    it was a pleasure to see your nom de plume suddenly reappear. i hope you’ll return to commenting here.

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