The Los Angeles Times this morning has released photographs, leaked by a member of the US Army, showing American soldiers posing with the dead and mutilated bodies of Afghan suicide bombers.
The soldier who provided the photos did so on condition of anonymity. The Times did reveal that, "he served in Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne's 4th Brigade Combat Team from Ft. Bragg, N.C." and said the soldier released the shocking images to "point to a breakdown in leadership and discipline that he believed compromised the safety of the troops."
The soldier who released the photos told The Times, that at the time his fellow soldiers "felt a sense of triumph and satisfaction, especially after learning that the insurgents had been killed by their own explosives." He said, "They were frustrated, just pissed off — their buddies had been blown up by IEDs" — improvised explosive devices — "So they sort of just celebrated."
Recognizing this episode is not an isolated incident of US troops' disregard for Afghan life, the Times notes: "In January, a video appeared on the Internet showing four U.S. Marines urinating on Afghan corpses. In February, the inadvertent burning of copies of the Koran at a U.S. base triggered riots that left 30 dead and led to the deaths of six Americans. In March, a U.S. Army sergeant went on a nighttime shooting rampage in two Afghan villages, killing 17."
The US Army asked the LA Times not to publish any of the 18 photos it received. Times Editor Davan Maharaj said, "After careful consideration, we decided that publishing a small but representative selection of the photos would fulfill our obligation to readers to report vigorously and impartially on all aspects of the American mission in Afghanistan, including the allegation that the images reflect a breakdown in unit discipline that was endangering U.S. troops."
An Army investigation into the incidents has been launched.
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The Los Angeles Times: U.S. troops posed with body parts of Afghan bombers
The 82nd Airborne Division soldiers arrived at the police station in Afghanistan's Zabol province in February 2010. They inspected the body parts. Then the mission turned macabre: The paratroopers posed for photos next to Afghan police, grinning while some held — and others squatted beside — the corpse's severed legs.
A few months later, the same platoon was dispatched to investigate the remains of three insurgents who Afghan police said had accidentally blown themselves up. After obtaining a few fingerprints, they posed next to the remains, again grinning and mugging for photographs.
Two soldiers posed holding a dead man's hand with the middle finger raised. A soldier leaned over the bearded corpse while clutching the man's hand. Someone placed an unofficial platoon patch reading "Zombie Hunter" next to other remains and took a picture.
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