US soldier jailed for 24 years for murder of Afghan civilians
Jeremy Morlock, 22, was one of five US soldiers facing a court martial for the deaths of the Afghan civilians in southern Kandahar province last year.
Morlock admitted three charges of murder, conspiracy, assault and drug abuse as part of a plea bargain. He is also expected to testify against his co-accused, including Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs, who Morlock has identified as the ring leader, as part of the deal.
The five have been on trial since last year, but the case shot into the lime light after the German magazine Der Speigel printed photographs of Morlock and his fellow Stryker Brigade colleagues posing with the dead bodies of Afghans. In one photo, Morlock grins into the camera as he lifts the head of a dead boy.
There has been no reaction from the Afghan government to the photos or the sentencing. When the photos first emerged, US and NATO commanders on the ground in Afghanistan warned of a backlash against foreigners and the international military. Sentiment is already running high in Afghanistan over civilian casualties caused by NATO-led airstrikes.
The three Afghans were killed in January, February and March of last year. In two incidents hand grenades were thrown first and soldiers then opened fire. In the third, the man was shot dead. Morlock testified that Afghan weapons, also obtained illegally, were left with the corpses to make it look as though they were killed in self-defence.
Asked during his court martial if the plan was to terrify Afghans, Morlock replied: “The plan was to kill people.”
Another seven members of the same platoon within the Stryker Brigade have been charged with lesser crimes, including assaulting a witness, drug use and firing on unarmed farmers and stabbing a corpse.
Prosecutors have also alleged they took trophies in the form of human bones and other body parts.
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