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Der Spiegel releases photos of U.S. soldiers posing with Afghan civilians they killed

Der Spiegel released late Sunday photos of U.S. soldiers posing with dead Afghan civilians they were responsible for killing. The German publication released only three images, but the Guardian reports Der Spiegel has found over 4,000 photos and videos taken by the soldiers.

The Canadian Press:

The photos published by Der Spiegel were among several seized by Army investigators looking into the deaths of three unarmed Afghans last year. Five soldiers based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, south of Seattle, have been charged with murder and conspiracy in the case.

Officials involved in the courts-martial had issued a strict protective order, seeking to severely limit access to the photographs due to their sensitive nature. Some defence teams had been granted copies but were not allowed to disseminate them.

It was not immediately known how Der Spiegel obtained copies.

One of the published photographs shows a key figure in the investigation, Cpl. Jeremy Morlock, grinning as he lifts the head of a corpse by the hair. Der Spiegel identified the body as that of Gul Mudin, whom Morlock was charged with killing on Jan. 15, 2010, in Kandahar Province.

[...]

“Today Der Spiegel published photographs depicting actions repugnant to us as human beings and contrary to the standards and values of the United States Army,” the Army said in a statement released by Col. Thomas Collins. “We apologize for the distress these photos cause.”

And Der Spiegel reports the U.S. has known about the coming release of the photos for around 100 days:

NATO, under the leadership of the US Army, has been preparing for possible publication of the photos for close to 100 days. In dozens of high-level talks with their Afghan partners, military leaders have sought to pursue the same strategy used by the US diplomatic corps in the case of the sensitive diplomatic cables released late last year by WikiLeaks. They warned those most directly affected and made preparations for the photos’ appearance in the public sphere. This “strategic communication” was aimed at preventing a major public backlash.

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