Der Spiegel publishes photos of U.S. soldiers and Afghan corpses

Mar 21 2011 - 9:46am

SEATTLE -- The German news organization Der Spiegel has published three photos depicting U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan that the Army had sought to keep secret during prosecution of a war-crimes case.

One photo shows two Afghans, who appear to be dead, leaned up against a post.

The other two photos show two soldiers accused of killing an unarmed Afghan in January 2010 kneeling next to the body of the slain man.

The two soldiers depicting kneeling by the corpse are:

--Spc. Jeremy Morlock, of Wasilla, Alaska, who is accused of participating in the slaying of that man and two other unarmed Afghans in February and May 2010. He appears to be smiling and raising the head of a corpse on the ground.

--Pfc. Andrew Holmes, who is accused of participating in the murder of that Afghan. He kneels next to the corpse, which is stretched out on the sand and grass.

The photos have been placed under a protective order by an Army judge as charges are pressed against Morlock, Holmes and three other soldiers from a western-Washington-based Stryker Brigade that served in Afghanistan from the summer of 2009 to the summer of 2010.

In a long war marked by often strained relations between U.S. forces and Afghans, civilian casualties have been one of the most sensitive issues. And U.S. Army officials feared that publication of these photos would be another blow to efforts to improve those relations and sought to keep the images from leaking to the media.

During a war-crimes investigation that began in May, the Army searched the computers and thumb drives of numerous soldiers in an effort to collect all images of alleged war crimes, and even sent an investigator to Oregon to try to obtain images that were emailed to a family member.

All of the accused served with the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, which since its return to Joint Base Lewis-McChord in has been renamed the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.

In a statement released Sunday, the Army called the photos "repugnant" and "contrary to the standards and values of the U.S. Army." The statement apologized for "the distress these photos cause" and said the photos appear "in stark contrast to the discipline, professionalism and respect that have characterized our soldiers' performance during nearly 10 years of sustained operations.

"The bottom line is that we are concerned that this kind of thing jeopardizes us and our coalition forces, and hampers our relations with the Afghan people," Army spokesman Col. Thomas Collins said.

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