New Photos Show US Soldiers Posing with Afghan Insurgent Remains

Posted April 18th, 2012 at 11:55 am (UTC-5)
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Photographs showing U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan posing with the remains of suicide bombers are drawing condemnation from top U.S. and NATO officials.

The photos from 2010 obtained by the Los Angeles Times show members of the United States Army posing with the bodies of insurgents who killed themselves in suicide attacks. The Times published two of the 18 photographs on its website Wednesday.

According to the Times, an American soldier released the photos to the newspaper on condition of anonymity in order to draw attention to a breakdown in leadership and discipline that he believed posed a threat to the safety of troops.

The images posted online show U.S. paratroopers and Afghan police grinning while holding severed legs. The other photo has a soldier leaning over a bearded corpse while clutching the man's hand.

In the Times' description of the other photos, two soldiers are holding a dead man's hand posed to make an offensive gesture, while another image has an unofficial platoon patch reading “Zombie Hunter” next to bomber remains.

The soldier who released the pictures told the Times that virtually all the men depicted in the photos had friends who were killed or wounded by homemade bombs or suicide attacks.

In a statement, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force, U.S. General John Allen, called the soldiers' actions “entirely inconsistent” with coalition and U.S. Army policies. He also said they “undermine the daily sacrifices of thousands of ISAF troops.” The U.S. Army has since launched a criminal investigation.

U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker also condemned the photos, calling the actions “morally repugnant” and a dishonor to the sacrifices of hundreds of thousands of American soldiers and civilians in Afghanistan.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta strongly rejected the conduct depicted in the photographs as well, saying in a statement Wednesday that the two-year-old images “by no means represent the values or professionalism of the vast majority of U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan today.”

He also voiced disappointment that the Times did not honor an official request not to publish the pictures. The U.S. defense secretary warned the material could be used to incite violence against U.S. and Afghan service members.

The photos' release comes at a sensitive time for U.S.-Afghan relations. In January, a video appeared online showing four U.S. Marines urinating on Afghan corpses. A month later, the inadvertent burning of copies of the Quran at a U.S. base near the Afghan capital triggered violent countrywide riots that killed 30 people and led to the deaths of six Americans.

Last month, a U.S. Army sergeant allegedly went on an early morning shooting rampage in two Afghan villages that killed 17 civilians, including many children.