Another batch of “kill team” photos from Afghanistan hit the web last night, this time from Rolling Stone.
This set, like one published last week in Der Spiegel, shows two Stryker soldiers in the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division posing separately with the corpse of an Afghan they allegedly murdered on Jan. 15, 2010 in a combat-like scenario they staged.
Rolling Stone’s photo gallery also includes gory images of a corpse soldiers in the Stryker platoon discovered when they investigated the scene of a helicopter strike on a Taliban fighter.
The Army kept the images under wraps since last May, when it started investigating suspicious killings carried about Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldiers during their deployment to southern Afghanistan. Der Spiegel’s publication of the images didn’t trigger much of an outcry among American allies around the world, but Rolling Stone’s piece could raise the stakes now that the photos are more accessible to a domestic audience.
Five soldiers in the platoon were charged with murder for killing three Afghans between January and May. Seven more in their platoon were charged with other misconduct.
So far, six of them have been punished at courts martial. Last week, Spc. Jeremy Morlock was sentenced to 24 years in prison after he pled guilty to participating in each of the three murders. He’s plea deal requires him to testify against his codefendants.
1 p.m. update:
Here’s a statement the Defense Department release today regarding the images in Rolling Stone.
“The photos published by Rolling Stone are disturbing and in striking contrast to the standards and values of the United States Army. Like those published by Der Spiegel, the Army apologizes for the distress these latest photos cause. Accountability remains the Army’s paramount concern in these alleged crimes. Accordingly, we are in the midst of courts-martial, and we continue to investigate leads. We must allow the judicial process to continue to unfold and be mindful that the government has distinct obligations to the victims and to the accused, which include compliance with the court’s protective order to ensure a fair trial. That said, the Army will relentlessly pursue the truth, no matter where it leads, both in and out of court, no matter how unpleasant it may be, no matter how long it takes. As an Army, we are troubled that any soldier would lose his ‘moral compass’ as one soldier said during his trial. We will continue to do whatever we need to as an institution to understand how it happened, why it happened and what we need to do to prevent it from happening again.”