US army apologises following publication of abuse pictures
WASHINGTON (PAN): The US army has apologised for the distress caused by the publication of what it described as “repugnant” photographs showing US soldiers posing with what appears to be the bodies of Afghan civilians.
The German magazine Der Spiegel published the photos over the weekend, saying it had acquired 4,000 such images and videos that are part of an investigation into a US army unit in southern Kandahar province that allegedly killed Afghans for sport.
Two of the photos show US soldiers grinning while holding up the heads of dead Afghans, simulating a “trophy photo”. The third photo appears to show two dead bodies propped up against a pillar.
US and coalition officials in Afghanistan are bracing for a backlash of fury over the photos. The issue of civilian casualties has become a flashpoint in the US-Afghan relationship with the top US and NATO general forced to apologise after two NATO-led airstrikes killed over 70 people, including nine young boys gathering firewood, last month.
There was no Afghan response to the publication of the photographs on Monday due to it being a public holiday.
The US army said the actions depicted in the photographs were “repugnant to us as human beings and contrary to the standards and values of the United States Army”.
It said the soldiers were facing court martial but would be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The soldiers in the photos are part of the 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state. Five members are facing courtmartial proceedings for the deaths of three unarmed Afghan civilians. Seven other members of the unit are accused of lesser crimes.
The men are accused of faking combat situations to justify killing randomly chosen Afghans with grenades and guns. The killings occurred last year in Maiwand District in Kandahar province.
The US army said it would not comment further on the photos.
“When allegations of wrongdoing by soldiers surface, to include the inappropriate treatment of the dead, they are fully investigated. Soldiers who commit offenses will be held accountable as appropriate,” it said.
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