An Afghan Abu Ghraib? America shamed by 'kill squad' photo leak

The US Army has been forced into an acutely embarrassing apology after photographs emerged of American soldiers posing with the corpses of Afghan civilians in scenes reminiscent of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal during the Iraq war.

In one picture, a US soldier grins wolfishly for the camera while gripping a corpse's hair, pulling back its head like a hunting trophy, in what could become an enduring image of how the West lost its way in Afghanistan.

The picture, one of three published by the German news weekly Der Spiegel, has forced the US Army into a rare public apology and attempts to distance itself from a handful of rogue troops who are charged with killing Afghan civilians for fun. The photographs depict "actions repugnant to us as human beings and contrary to the standards and values of the United States Army", it said in a statement yesterday. "We apologise for the distress these photos cause."

The US military had tried to suppress the photos, which are part of the evidence seized in a case against 12 US soldiers accused of crimes ranging from murder to hoarding body parts as trophies, and which it believes could incite riots and attacks on its personnel in Afghanistan.

But the magazine, which says it obtained access to about 4,000 pictures and videos pertaining to the case, argued that it was important to publish a "tiny" number of them in order to document a war in which all sides had "lost sight" of their original objectives.

The case has drawn parallels with the Abu Ghraib scandal, in which US military police, CIA officers and private contractors abused, tortured and in one instance killed prisoners in their care. In both cases the perpetrators recorded their crimes on camera. The Abu Ghraib incident led to a furious public reaction in Iraq.

In the Afghanistan case, that anger has yet to materialise. Most of the country was shut down for the Nowruz holiday yesterday and there has been no government reaction so far. Some Afghanistan experts believe that most Afghans are so inured to images of violence, and so cynical about the foreign intervention in their country, that the publication of the "kill squad" photos will have little effect. Nonetheless, Nato and security advisers still fear a backlash.

The accused – soldiers from the US 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division – are alleged to have made their first killing in January 2010 on a patrol in Kandahar province. Prosecutors claim that Specialist Jeremy Morlock threw a grenade at a young Afghan man, Gul Mudin, in a pre-meditated plan to frame him as an assailant. Following the explosion the American soldiers fired eight shots, killing him.

At this point Morlock is supposed to have posed with the dead body. His court martial hearing begins this week. Morlock has already agreed to plead guilty to murder, conspiracy and other charges, and to testify against his co-defendants in return for a maximum sentence of 24 years in jail.

His lawyers have said that while he might be "physically responsible" for his crimes, "the people who are morally responsible are the American leaders who have us in the wrong war at the wrong time".

Suggested Topics
News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Sport
Harry Redknapp. Mark Hughes and Ryan Shawcross
footballNews and updates as Queens Park Rangers host the Potters
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
i100... with this review
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
New Articles
i100
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam