Spiegel shows 'US soldiers posing with dead Afghans'
German weekly Der Spiegel on Monday published photos that it said showed two US soldiers in Afghanistan from a rogue army unit posing with dead Afghans.
Two photos, which Spiegel said US authorities had sought to keep secret, appear to show two members of a unit that allegedly killed Afghan civilians for sport.
In one, a purported soldier, cigarette in hand, holds up the head of a blood-spattered man who is apparently dead. In a second, another purported soldier is grinning widely while also holding up the same man.
A third photo shows two bodies propped up against a post. Again the people in the picture appear to be dead.
The photos relate to an ongoing high-profile case of soldiers accused of killing civilians, mutilating their bodies and collecting trophies.
Spiegel said one of the troops in the photos is Corporal Jeremy Morlock, who faces charges of premeditated murder in the deaths of three Afghans.
The other, Private Andrew Holmes, stands accused of participating in a plot to execute an Afghan man in January, the magazine said.
The plan, supposedly concocted by ringleader Sergeant Calvin Gibbs and Morlock, allegedly involved shooting a civilian and tossing a Russian-made grenade at the man to make it appear he was an enemy combatant.
In November, Holmes won a temporary reprieve from legal action relating to murder charges, according to his lawyer.
Morlock is one of five soldiers charged with murder in the case, while seven others are accused of trying to block the investigation, using hashish and severely beating a comrade in retaliation for informing superiors.
Spiegel said the US military tried to prevent the publication of the pictures, fearing a possible backlash against its troops on the ground in Afghanistan.
The well-respected magazine said it had researched the story of the so-called "Kill Team" for five months.
"Spiegel is publishing only three of the 4,000 pictures and videos, only those which are necessary for the story which needs to be told here," the magazine said.
In a statement, the US army said: "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."
"We apologize for the distress these photos cause."
The actions portrayed in the pictures are "the subject of ongoing US court-martial proceedings, in which the accused are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty," added the statement.
"These court-martial proceedings speak for themselves."
© 2011 AFP