April 18, 2012
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE | APRIL 18, 2012
US soldiers took pictures of themselves posing with the mangled remains of suspected Afghan suicide bombers on more than one occasion in 2010, the Los Angeles Times reported on Wednesday.
The LA Times said the US Army had launched an investigation into the incident after the newspaper showed them some of the photos, which it had obtained from a soldier in the division.
The first incident took place in February 2010, when paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division were sent to an Afghan police station in Zabol province to inspect the remains of an alleged suicide bomber.
The soldiers had intended to try to get fingerprints and possibly scan the irises of the corpse, but instead they posed for pictures next to the Afghan police, holding up or squatting beside the remains, the newspaper said.
A few months later, the same platoon went to inspect the remains of three insurgents whom Afghan police said had blown themselves up by accident.
Two soldiers posed holding up one of the dead men’s hands with the middle finger raised, while another leaned over the bearded corpse, the newspaper reported.
Another soldier apparently placed an unofficial platoon patch reading “Zombie Hunter” next to the other remains and took a picture.
The LA Times said the military had asked it not to publish the photos for fear of inciting violence, but Times editor Davan Maharaj said that the newspaper had decided to publish a “small but representative selection.”
“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,” he was quoted as saying.
As of early Wednesday, however, the photos had not yet appeared on the newspaper’s website.
The photos come after a series of scandals that has strained US-Afghan ties.
In March a US soldier allegedly went on a shooting rampage in two Afghan villages, killing 17 people — mostly women and children — in what is believed to be the deadliest war crime by a NATO soldier in the decade-long conflict.
The burning of Korans in mid-February triggered deadly anti-US protests, and there has been a surge in “insider” attacks on NATO troops by Afghan forces.
NATO has a 130,000-strong US-led military force fighting the Islamist Taliban, which has led an insurgency against the Western-backed Kabul government since being toppled from power in 2001.
The United States plans to gradually draw down combat troops from the middle of next year before handing over control to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014 as agreed by the NATO alliance.