Monday, March 21, 2011
A rogue group of U.S. Army soldiers indulged in the slaughter of Afghani civilians posing with the dead bodies as if they were treasured trophies.
Senior NATO officials in Kabul even have compared the pictures published by the German news weekly Der Spiegel to the images of US soldiers abusing prisoners in Abu Ghraib in Iraq which sparked waves of anti-US protests around the world.
Some of the activities of the self-styled “kill team” are already public, with 12 men currently on trial in Seattle for their role in the killing of three civilians. Five of the soldiers are on trial for pre-meditated murder, after they staged killings to make it look like they were defending themselves from Taliban attacks.
Other charges include the mutilation of corpses. All of the soldiers have denied the charges. They face the death penalty or life in prison if convicted.
In a statement released by Colonel Thomas Collins, the US Army apologized for the suffering the photos have caused. The actions depicted in the photos, the statement read, are “repugnant to us as human beings and contrary to the standards and values of the United States.”
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telephoned her Afghan counterpart to discuss the situation and try to engage in damage control. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon has contacted officials in Kabul. The case threatens to strain already fragile U.S.-Afghan relations at a time when the two countries are negotiating over the establishment of permanent U.S. military bases in Afghanistan.
The pictures were published by German news organization Der Spiegel and were among 4,000 they have obtained of the atrocities. Commanders in Afghanistan are bracing themselves for a public backlash and possible riots over the horrific ‘trophy’ photographs, especially since it has been alleged that the Afghan civilians were unarmed and innocent.
The U.S. Army suspects are accused of having killed civilians for no reason and then tried to make it look as though the killings had been acts of self-defense. Some of the accused have said the acts had been tightly scripted.
In one incident which was reconstructed based on court documents said the soldiers themselves detonated a hand grenade in order to make it look like they were the subjects of an attack before killing a man. One of those who allegedly participated, Adam Winfield, 21, described the incident to his father in a chat on the social networking site Facebook. “They made it look like the guy threw a grenade at them and mowed him down,” SPIEGEL quotes Winfield as having written in the chat.
In a second incident on Feb. 22, 2010, one of the members of the “kill team” who had been carrying an old Russian Kalashnikov, fired it before pulling out another gun and shooting 22-year-old Afghan Marach Agha. In a third incident on May 2, 2010, it appears that a hand grenade attack was again staged before the shooting and killing of Mullah Allah Dad.