An American soldier has released images of US troops posing with the mangled remains of Afghan suicide bombers.
The soldier, who requested to remain anonymous, released 18 images to the Los Angeles Times to draw attention to the safety risk of a breakdown in leadership and discipline among US troops.
One image shows paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division, who had been given the task of identifying suicide bombers in Zabol province in February 2010, grinning as they posed with the severed legs of a corpse.
Another showed soldiers holding a dead man's hand with the middle finger raised. Others showed a patch reading "Zombie Hunter" next to remains, and various shots of soldiers grinning as they posed with body parts.
The US Army has launched a criminal investigation into the photos. The LA Times claims US military officials asked the newspaper not to publish the images.
An Army spokesman told the LA Times, "It is a violation of Army standards to pose with corpses for photographs outside of officially sanctioned purposes."
"Such actions fall short of what we expect of our uniformed service members in deployed areas," he added.
Lt. Col. Margaret Kageleiry, an Army spokeswoman, told the newspaper that most of the soldiers in the photos have already been identified, adding that after the criminal investigation, the Army would "take appropriate action" against those involved.
The photographs, which were provided to the LA Times by a soldier who served in Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne's 4th Brigade Combat Team, have come to light at a particularly sensitive moment in relations between the US and Afghanistan.
In January, a video appeared online showing four Marines urinating on the corpses of dead Taliban. In February, 30 people were killed after copies of the Qur’an were inadvertently burnt at a US base. And in March a US army sergeant massacred 17 Afghan villagers in a gun rampage.
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