John Stephenson for McClatchy reports that Afghan army chief Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi, the chief Afghan investigator in the killing of 17 civilians with which U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales has been charged, says “there’s strong evidence that only one killer was involved, a view that puts him at odds with Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai.”

A U.S. defense official said “such speculation was ‘commonplace, especially in small villages and especially about something as horrific as an event like this.'” Referring to a relative of victims, Karzai said: “‘In his family, in four rooms people were killed — children and women were killed — and then they were all brought together in one room and then set on fire. That, one man cannot do.'”

Gen. Karimi reiterated that. “And everybody said (to the president), ‘Sir, it was not one person. … How can one guy shoot people in four rooms, kill them, then lift them, bring them to one room and set them on fire?'”

But, if Bales acted alone, by returning to the base after the first round of shootings and heading out again for another, it’s as if there were two shooters since it happened in two stages.* Or to put it another way, since it was two separate incidents, Bales is a serial killer.

In any event, failure to notice his exit not once but twice — how often does an American soldier leave his base in Afghanistan in the middle of the night? — makes the army complicit in the murders. From the soldiers on his base to the Pentagon to the president and everyone responsible for our Afghan policy, the killers were legion.

*Incidentally Marcy Wheeler of Empty Wheel speculates on a plausible explanation for Afghan suspicions of more than one shooter. (Thanks to Steve Hynd of the Agonist and Newshoggers for the link.)

… I’m suggesting that it’s possible Bales went first to Alkozai and in a spray of gunfire killed 4 or 5 and wounded at least 5 more, then returned to the base, told others what he had done, and more followed him in helicopters to Najiban. That would explain the larger number of men described by Dawood’s children, how 11 people in 4 rooms were killed in Wazir’s home, and also how Bales was able to drag all 11 bodies to one room and attempt to burn them (though the timing is still short, given that Najiban is at least a mile from the base and Bales was reportedly gone just an hour total on that second trip).

Get more news like this, directly in your inbox.

Subscribe to our newsletter.