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Photos published of alleged U.S. atrocities in Afghanistan

By the CNN Wire Staff
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'Trophy killing' photos released
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Photographs have been published of what appear to be U.S. soldiers posing over dead Afghan civilians
  • The photos were published by Der Spiegel in Germany
  • Spc. Jeremy Morlock and Pfc. Andrew Holmes are featured in the photographs, according to Der Spiegel
  • Twelve U.S. soldiers have been charged in an alleged conspiracy to murder Afghan civilians and cover it up
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Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- The German news outlet Der Spiegel has published photographs of what appear to be two U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan posing over the bodies of dead Afghans -- images which threaten to further complicate the American military effort there.

Two images show the soldiers kneeling by a bloody body sprawled over a patch of sand and grass. A third shows what appears to be two bodies propped up, back to back, against a post in front of a military vehicle.

Der Spiegel identifies the soldiers as Spc. Jeremy Morlock and Pfc. Andrew Holmes, who are both facing charges relating to the wrongful deaths of Afghan civilians.

Specifically, Holmes is charged with the premeditated deaths of three civilians, possessing a dismembered human finger, wrongfully possessing photographs of human casualties, and smoking hashish.

He is also accused of conspiring with Morlock to shoot at a civilian and then toss a grenade so it would look like the soldiers were under attack.

Morlock is charged with three counts of murder. He is accused of killing one Afghan civilian in January 2010 with a grenade and rifle; killing another in May 2010 in a similar manner; and shooting a third to death in February 2010.

U.S. military rules also prohibit "taking or retaining individual souvenirs or trophies," which the photographs may be construed as.

Spc. Jeremy Morlock, left, and Pfc. Andrew Holmes are facing charges relating to the wrongful deaths of Afghan civilians.
Spc. Jeremy Morlock, left, and Pfc. Andrew Holmes are facing charges relating to the wrongful deaths of Afghan civilians.

The trial for the two soldiers is being conducted at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington. Morlock's court martial is slated to begin Wednesday, while the start date for Holmes' court martial has not been publicly announced.

The U.S. Army released a statement Monday calling the photographs "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," the statement said.

Army officials asserted in the statement that ongoing court-martial proceedings related to the alleged atrocities "speak for themselves. 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."

They also stressed that the "United States Army is committed to adherence to the Law of War and the humane and respectful treatment of combatants, noncombatants, and the dead. ... Soldiers who commit offenses will be held accountable as appropriate."

In all, officials have charged 12 U.S. soldiers in what they called a conspiracy to murder Afghan civilians and cover it up, along with charges they mutilated corpses and kept grisly souvenirs. Five of the soldiers face murder charges, while seven others are charged with participating in a coverup.

All of the accused men were members of a 2nd Infantry Division brigade operating near Kandahar in southern Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010.

CNN's Alan Silverleib and Scott Zamost contributed to this report

 
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