Death toll grows to 17 in Afghan massacre

Death toll grows to 17 in Afghan massacre
An Afghan man sits in the back of a bus with the body of a person who was allegedly killed by a U.S. service member in Panjwai, Kandahar province south of Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, March 11, 2012.
WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. defense officials say the death toll in the massacre of Afghan villagers is now 17.

Defense officials said Thursday that investigators have increased the number of dead from the widely reported 16, but they were unable to immediately explain the change. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation into the shootings is continuing.

Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who was formerly based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, allegedly gunned down Afghans on March 11 as they slept in their homes in two southern villages.

He is expected to be charged Friday in the deaths and is in custody in a military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

There was initial confusion about the number of dead in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, but Afghan and U.S. officials had said 16 for the past week.