US soldier smiles over Afghan corpse

2011-03-23 16:25
Seattle - A soldier from a rogue US army unit accused of killing Afghans for sport was to go on trial on Wednesday, days after the publication of grisly photos of troops posing with dead civilians.

One of three pictures published by the German news magazine Der Spiegel shows Jeremy Morlock smiling over the corpse of an Afghan man he allegedly murdered in southern Afghanistan.

News reports say Morlock has agreed to plead guilty at his court martial to his role as part of an allegedly drug-addled rogue unit that slaughtered Afghan civilians in the explosive Kandahar region early last year.

The photos, recalling the notorious Abu Ghraib prison abuse images from Iraq, show Morlock and another soldier - Private Andrew Holmes, who also faces murder charges - holding up the head of a blood-spattered corpse.

Under military procedures, if Morlock enters a guilty plea on Wednesday the hearing would immediately go to the sentencing phase.

Gruesome trophies

The court martial has already been postponed once, but US army spokesperson Major Kathleen Turner said Morlock is still scheduled to go before the military court at Fort Lewis, south of Seattle.

Morlock is also the government's star witness against four other soldiers accused over the execution of Afghan civilians - in particular the alleged ring-leader, Staff Sergeant Calvin R Gibbs.

Morlock led Army investigators to gruesome trophies allegedly taken from the bodies of civilians killed by members of Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Division's Stryker brigade, based out of Fort Lewis, Washington.

At a pre-trial hearing for Holmes in November, Special Agent Benjamin Stevenson testified that, using a map drawn by Morlock, he found severed fingers in a large protective barrier near where the soldiers lived.

How Der Spiegel obtained the photos is unclear, but the Army apologised on Monday for their appearance, saying the pictures were "repugnant to us as human beings and contrary to the standards and values of the United States Army".

4 000 pictures of ‘Kill Team’

But at least one person was glad to see the photos made public.

Holmes's attorney, Dan Conway, had been fighting with the Army to obtain the photos so he could have an outside forensic investigator examine them.

Conway says his client is accused of killing the Afghan civilian in the photo with a machine gun, but the lawyer does not believe the photos show evidence that the body was hit by Holmes's gun.

Conway says Holmes "was ordered to be in the photos, so he got in the photos. But that does not make him a murderer".

Der 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, and the three photos published on Monday were from some 4 000 pictures and videos it had seen.

Read more on:    us army  |  us  |  afghanistan  |  war crimes

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly


The moon moves out of your sign later this morning pushing your emotions to the fore. You may feel extra sensitive to more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.