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US Army apologises for photographs of soldiers posing with corpses

Der Spiegel prints photos taken by US soldiers on mobile phones, showing them posing with dead bodies in Afghanistan.

Officers of the Afghan army stand on patrol. A German magazine has published photos of US soldiers apparently posing with the corpses of dead Afghan civilians.
Officers of the Afghan army stand on patrol. A German magazine has published photos of US soldiers apparently posing with the corpses of dead Afghan civilians.
Image: Dar Yasin/AP

THE UNITED STATES Army has issued a doleful apology after a German news magazine published photographs of its soldiers, apparently posing with the bloody corpses of Afghan prisoners.

The photos, published yesterday by Der Spiegel, were among several seized by officers investigating the deaths of three unarmed Afghans last year.

“Today Der Spiegel published photographs depicting actions repugnant to us as human beings and contrary to the standards and values of the United States Army… we apologize for the distress these photos cause,” an Army spokesman said in a statement.

Commanders in Afghanistan are now bracing themselves for a possible wave of public fury triggered by the photographs, which the Guardian says have been compared to the photographers of prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib.

The soldiers pictured in the photographs are members of a self-styled “kill team”; twelve of them have already been taken to trial in the US for their role in the civilians’ deaths, though all soldiers deny the charges.

One of the published photographs shows a key figure in the investigation, Corporal Jeremy Morlock, grinning as he lifts the head of a corpse by the hair. Der Spiegel identified the body as that of Gul Mudin, who Morlock was charged with killing in January 2010 in Kandahar.

Another photo shows Private Andrew Holmes holding the head of the same corpse. His lawyer, Daniel Conway, claims Holmes was ordered “to be in the photo, so he got in the photo. That doesn’t make him a murderer.”

The photo was taken while the platoon leader, Lieutenant Roman Ligsay, was present, Conway said.

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Der Spiegel published the photographs yesterday, though they have since been removed from its website, ahead of appearance in a print edition today.

It claims to be in possession of 4,000 such photographs, though it intends to publish no more than the three released yesterday.

The publication of the photographs comes just as president Hamid Karzai prepares to publicly declare which areas of the country will be taken back into native Afghan control, as part of the gradual withdrawal of international forces.

Additional reporting by AP

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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