Shocking report outs US soldiers

Soldiers charged with murdering three Afghan men are (from left) Andrew Holmes, Michael Wagnon, Jeremy Morlock and Adam Winfield.

Soldiers charged with murdering three Afghan men are (from left) Andrew Holmes, Michael Wagnon, Jeremy Morlock and Adam Winfield.


FIVE US soldiers deliberately killed Afghan civilians with grenades before photographing the corpses and keeping body parts as trophies, say Pentagon investigators.

A 25-year-old sergeant, Calvin Gibbs, was the alleged ringleader, reportedly joking about how easy it would be to ''toss a grenade at someone and kill them'', US Army charge sheets have revealed.

The five soldiers are charged with murdering three Afghan men and forming a ''kill team''. After blowing up and shooting the Afghans, the soldiers allegedly took photos of the bodies before souveniring fingers, leg bones and a skull, later discovered among the soldiers' possessions.

Another seven soldiers face charges of helping to cover up the killings and over the bashing of a soldier who had blown the whistle on the rogue unit by reporting other abuses including the regular smoking of hashish stolen from civilians.

The troops belonged to a Stryker infantry brigade based in Kandahar province, where the killings occurred earlier this year.

The brigade, which has had dozens of combat deaths during its deployment, was operating within a Taliban stronghold where US command has been anxious to win the hearts and minds of the locals.

News of the killings emerged in May when the army investigated the bashing of a soldier who had reported the drug use to his superiors.

But the army charge documents released on Wednesday provide more details about the case.

Gibbs had threatened to kill the soldier if he continued with his complaints, further threatening him by showing him fingers cut from an Afghan corpse. The five soldiers have been detained since June at an army facility near Seattle, Washington.

CBS News on Wednesday described those involved in the killings as belonging to ''the platoon from hell'', equating the alleged crimes to the abuses by US troops at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad in 2004 during the occupation of Iraq.

Michael O'Hanlon, a foreign policy expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC, told the network: ''This is the kind of thing that hurts us enormously. It will have a disproportionate effect, just like Abu Ghraib did. Just like any such incident. Just like the Koran burning would in Florida.''

Gibbs apparently started talking about targeting civilians in December, claiming it would be easy to commit such a crime undetected.

According to statements collected by investigators and first reported by The Seattle Times, one soldier responded that the idea was crazy. Another testified that he thought Gibbs was probably ''feeling out the platoon''.

But eventually, Gibbs formed what one called a ''kill team'' to execute at random Afghan civilians while on patrol. No motive was discussed.

His lawyer said Gibbs, from Billings, Montana, denied being part of any conspiracy and claimed the deaths were all ''appropriate engagements''.

Gibbs and Specialist Jeremy Morlock, 22, of Wasilla, Alaska, are charged with three counts each of premeditated murder and one count of assault. Three other soldiers face one count of murder each. All five face life in prison, or death, if convicted.

Morlock has made extensive statements to investigators but his lawyer is contesting their admissibility, claiming they were made under the influence of prescription drugs taken for head injuries sustained in battle.

The three Afghan civilians were killed near the army's Forward Operating Base Ramrod in southern Afghanistan.

Morlock told investigators that to kill one of the men, he had thrown a grenade given to him by Gibbs over a low wall in a field. Another soldier told investigators that Morlock then had ordered him to fire over the wall, but he was unsure if he hit anyone. The soldier also said Morlock had threatened his life if he told anyone.

The charges will be considered later this month by a military grand jury, which will decide if there is enough evidence for a court martial.


16 comments so far

  • I think this stupidity has all evolved from the decision by George Bush to take young soldiers overseas to unnecessary combat. Not only has that decision resulted in over 6000 young USA soldiers deaths so far, but it has resulted in inexcusable behaviour by men affected mentally by the war. What these soldiers did was not normal and would never have happened had those same 5 men been at home in USA. War becomes a place of irrationality and that needs to be taken in to consideration. These evil deeds need not be condoned or go unpunished however they need to be understood in the extraordinary context of war.

    Date and time
    September 10, 2010, 10:20AM
    • Lynley, I don't think we should give them an "out" without knowing the facts. There are a lot of sick and violent people out there in the general community too. Are you saying that any professionally trained soldier could kill civilians and should therefore be kept at home?! I don't think that anyone "forgets" that killing an innocent civilian is wrong. Perhaps these soldiers just didn't equate an Afgan life to that of a US civilian.

      Jenny Lake
      Date and time
      September 10, 2010, 11:19AM
      • They did well by blowing them up but spreading photos of them is not clever.

        Date and time
        September 10, 2010, 12:20PM
        • Get out of Afghanastan let them fight there own Wars, They have been doing it for Centuries, and will be fighting for Centuries more. Barbarians.

          janet page
          Date and time
          September 10, 2010, 12:58PM
          • wow , this is perverse

            Date and time
            September 10, 2010, 3:07PM
            • These soldiers have seen what these Taliban are capable and are just giving it back to them. When they shoot at us and set off their roadside bombs, they are Taliban, when we kill them they are civilians. For God's sake we are at war. Kill who must be killed, win the WAR!

              Date and time
              September 10, 2010, 4:32PM
              • Mao you deserve not only a medal but also the best compliments as adviser specially at Fort Hood. But them bums will knock you back. Yo are too good. As myself.
                Guess who is their best choice!
                You can't get blinds to see. At least not yet. Look who the US has as president.

                Date and time
                September 10, 2010, 5:02PM
                • These young soldiers are changed men mentally after the War. The statistics in the USA for suicide and homicide with ex-vets is out of control. Not helped by poor organizations such as Veterans Affairs in both USA, England and Australia. It's all there online youtube it!! Soldiers mental well being at war and post war is yet to hit hard. President Obama has recently given this matter much needed addressing with post war stress in Veterans.

                  Date and time
                  September 10, 2010, 6:02PM
                  • Dear lynley: killing persons is not an acceptable thing. It is not a different thing just because they are Afghans and not US nationals. War can certainly drive people mad, and that war is held in a twilight zone, where a soldier never knows if the person before him is an inoccent civilian or a Taliban.

                    Andres Mendez
                    Date and time
                    September 11, 2010, 1:51AM
                    • Mao, regardless of how soldiers got to a theatre of war, there is NEVER any justification for killing innocent civilians. The problem right from the beginning in Iraq was an illegal invasion, which is the subject of the current Chilcott inquiry ín the UK. Afghanistan was always going to be an impossible war to defend, purely because of urban terrorism, the size of the country, the terrain, and the fact that the Taliban can so easily blend in with the local population. There's always that pathetic justification/excuse that war brings out the worst in humanity. This wasn't war, this was 'thrill killing' and these butchers should be deal with accordingly~!

                      Date and time
                      September 11, 2010, 7:58AM

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