US Army 'kill team' in Afghanistan posed for photos of murdered civilians: Commanders brace for backlash of anti-US sentiment that could be more damaging than after the Abu Ghraib scandal
by Jon Boone
Commanders in Afghanistan are bracing themselves for possible riots and public fury triggered by the publication of "trophy" photographs of US soldiers posing with the dead bodies of defenceless Afghan civilians they killed.
Senior officials at Nato's International Security Assistance Force in Kabul have compared the pictures published by the German news weekly Der Spiegel to the images of US soldiers abusing prisoners in Abu Ghraib in Iraq which sparked waves of anti-US protests around the world.
They fear that the pictures could be even more damaging as they show the aftermath of the deliberate murders of Afghan civilians by a rogue US Stryker tank unit that operated in the southern province of Kandahar last year.
Some of the activities of the self-styled "kill team" are already public, with 12 men currently on trial in Seattle for their role in the killing of three civilians.
Five of the soldiers are on trial for pre-meditated murder, after they staged killings to make it look like they were defending themselves from Taliban attacks.
Other charges include the mutilation of corpses, the possession of images of human casualties and drug abuse.
All of the soldiers have denied the charges. They face the death penalty or life in prison if convicted.
The case has already created shock around the world, particularly with the revelations that the men cut "trophies" from the bodies of the people they killed.
An investigation by Der Spiegel has unearthed approximately 4,000 photos and videos taken by the men.
The magazine, which is planning to publish only three images, said that in addition to the crimes the men were on trial for there are "also entire collections of pictures of other victims that some of the defendants were keeping".
The US military has strived to keep the pictures out of the public domain fearing it could inflame feelings at a time when anti-Americanism in Afghanistan is already running high.
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Frontlines of Revolutionary Struggle: US' New Abu Ghraib in Afghanistan