Content warning — this post contains graphic images.
U.S. troops posed for photos with the mangled remains of suspected Afghan bombers, the Los Angeles Times reported.
An American soldier released 18 images to the newspaper, taken in 2010 after members of the 82nd Airborne Division were tasked with inspecting the body parts of insurgents who had blown themselves up:
They inspected the body parts. Then the mission turned macabre: The paratroopers posed for photos next to Afghan police, grinning while some held — and others squatted beside — the corpse’s severed legs.
A few months later, the same platoon was dispatched to investigate the remains of three insurgents who Afghan police said had accidentally blown themselves up. After obtaining a few fingerprints, they posed next to the remains, again grinning and mugging for photographs.
Two soldiers posed holding a dead man’s hand with the middle finger raised. A soldier leaned over the bearded corpse while clutching the man’s hand. Someone placed an unofficial platoon patch reading “Zombie Hunter” next to other remains and took a picture.
The Times published two of the 18 photos. The images have sparked outrage and condemnation from U.S. military leaders, who have said an investigation is underway.
“It is a violation of Army standards to pose with corpses for photographs outside of officially sanctioned purposes,” Army spokesman George Wright told the Times. “Such actions fall short of what we expect of our uniformed service members in deployed areas.”
Gen. John Allen, commander of NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, strongly condemned the photos and called the behavior depicted “entirely inconsistent with the values of ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] and all service members of the 50 ISAF countries serving in Afghanistan.”
Before the images were even published online, Pentagon press secretary George Little said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta “rejects the conduct depicted in these 2-year-old photographs,” according to the Associated Press.
“Anyone found responsible for this inhuman conduct will be held accountable in accordance with our military justice system,” Little said.
One image published shows a soldier posing in front of the body of an insurgent whose hand appears to be on the soldier’s shoulder, with another member of the military looking down at the corpse. The second shows a group of people, including uniformed American soldiers, posing with what looks like the mangled legs of an insurgent.
According to the Times, the photos were taken during a yearlong deployment of the 3,500-member brigade, which saw 35 of its soldiers killed during that period. At least 23 were killed by homemade bombs or suicide bombers, the Times reported.
The soldier who provided the photos to the Times — who did so on the condition of anonymity — told the newspaper virtually all of the troops pictured had friends wounded or killed by homemade bombs.
“They were frustrated, just pissed off — their buddies had been blown up by IEDs [improvised explosive devices],” the soldier said. “So they sort of just celebrated.”
Times editor Davan Maharaj said of the the decision to publish the images: “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.”
The photos come at a critical time for the American mission in Afghanistan: In January, video emerged of what appeared to be U.S. Marines urinating on the corpses of dead Taliban fighters. One month later, the inadvertent burning of Korans at a U.S. base set of days of deadly riots around the country and resulted in the deaths of several U.S. troops, including two shot inside the Afghan Foreign Ministry. Last month, a U.S. Army sergeant allegedly went on a shooting rampage in an Afghan village, killing nine children and eight adults.
Content warning — graphic images below.
This post has been updated since it was first published.