U.S. Troops Pose With Remains of Suicide Bombers
The Army has launched a criminal investigation into the photos.
The Los Angeles Times has released a series of photos showing U.S. soldiers posing with the remains of Afghan suicide bombers.
The soldiers, paratroopers from Fort Bragg's 82nd Airborne Division, were dispatched to Afghanistan's Zabol Province in February of 2010 to try to identify the remains of a suicide bomber by fingerprinting and iris scans, according to the Times report.
When they arrived at the police station where the remains were being held, the paratroopers posed for photos with the corpse -- some while holding its severed legs.
A few months later, the same platoon inspected the remains of three more insurgents, the Times reported. Once again, the soldiers posed for photographs with the remains. One photo shows two soldiers holding a dead insurgent's hand with the middle finger raised.
According to the Times, the photos were submitted by an anonymous 82nd Airborne Division soldier who said he felt they indicated a "breakdown in leadership" that was detrimental to the safety of the troops.
The Army launched a criminal investigation after the Times showed military officials the photos, according to the report. Army spokesman George Wright told the Times that "appropriate action" would be taken against the soldiers involved. A Pentagon spokesman said that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta "strongly rejects the conduct" of the soldiers involved, and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker called the photos "morally repugnant," according to the Huffington Post.
The Army did, however, ask the Times to suppress the photos, citing possible "backlash" -- a request which the Times declined.
"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," said Times editor Davan Maharaj.
According to the Times, the photos were taken during a yearlong deployment of the 82nd Airborne's 4th Brigade Combat Team -- a deployment during which the 3,500-member unit lost 35 soldiers, at least 23 to roadside bombs and suicide bombers. The soldier who provided the photos, along with many other soldiers, had lodged serious complaints about a lack of adequate security at the Brigade's bases, and nearly all of the soldiers who posed in the photos had friends who were killed by suicide bombers or IED attacks.
The surfacing of the photos is the latest in a string of scandals involving the military that have strained U.S.-Afghan relations. In January, video surfaced online of U.S. Marines urinating on Afghan corpses. In February, the burning of Korans at a U.S. base sparked riots that killed dozens, including six Americans. And in March, 17 Afghan civilians were massacred, allegedly by a U.S. Army sergeant.
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