[News] US soldiers 'killed Afghan civilians for sport and collected fingers as trophies'
news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Sep 9 16:46:44 EDT 2010
US soldiers 'killed Afghan civilians for sport
and collected fingers as trophies'
Soldiers face charges over secret 'kill team'
which allegedly murdered at random and collected fingers as trophies of war
Andrew Holmes, Michael Wagnon, Jeremy Morlock and
Adam Winfield are four of the five Stryker
soldiers who face murder charges. Photograph: Public Domain
Twelve American soldiers face charges over a
secret "kill team" that allegedly blew up and
shot Afghan civilians at random and collected their fingers as trophies.
Five of the soldiers are charged with murdering
three Afghan men who were allegedly killed for
sport in separate attacks this year. Seven others
are accused of covering up the killings and
assaulting a recruit who exposed the murders when
he reported other abuses, including members of
the unit smoking hashish stolen from civilians.
In one of the most serious accusations of war
crimes to emerge from the Afghan conflict, the
killings are alleged to have been carried out by
members of a Stryker infantry brigade based in
Kandahar province in southern
According to investigators and legal documents,
discussion of killing Afghan civilians began
after the arrival of Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs
at forward operating base Ramrod last November.
Other soldiers told the army's criminal
investigation command that Gibbs boasted of the
things he got away with while serving in Iraq and
said how easy it would be to "toss a grenade at someone and kill them".
One soldier said he believed Gibbs was "feeling out the platoon".
Investigators said Gibbs, 25, hatched a plan with
another soldier, Jeremy Morlock, 22, and other
members of the unit to form a "kill team". While
on patrol over the following months they
allegedly killed at least three Afghan civilians.
According to the charge sheet, the first target
was Gul Mudin, who was killed "by means of
throwing a fragmentary grenade at him and
shooting him with a rifle", when the patrol
entered the village of La Mohammed Kalay in January.
Morlock and another soldier, Andrew Holmes, were
on guard at the edge of a poppy field when Mudin
emerged and stopped on the other side of a wall
from the soldiers. Gibbs allegedly handed Morlock
a grenade who armed it and dropped it over the
wall next to the Afghan and dived for cover.
Holmes, 19, then allegedly fired over the wall.
Later in the day, Morlock is alleged to have told
Holmes that the killing was for fun and threatened him if he told anyone.
The second victim, Marach Agha, was shot and
killed the following month. Gibbs is alleged to
have shot him and placed a Kalashnikov next to
the body to justify the killing. In May Mullah
Adadhdad was killed after being shot and attacked with a grenade.
The Army Times reported that a least one of the
soldiers collected the fingers of the victims as
souvenirs and that some of them posed for photographs with the bodies.
Five soldiers Gibbs, Morlock, Holmes, Michael
Wagnon and Adam Winfield are accused of murder
and aggravated assault among other charges. All
of the soldiers have denied the charges. They
face the death penalty or life in prison if convicted.
The killings came to light in May after the army
began investigating a brutal assault on a soldier
who told superiors that members of his unit were
smoking hashish. The Army Times reported that
members of the unit regularly smoked the drug on
duty and sometimes stole it from civilians.
The soldier, who was straight out of basic
training and has not been named, said he
witnessed the smoking of hashish and drinking of
smuggled alcohol but initially did not report it
out of loyalty to his comrades. But when he
returned from an assignment at an army
headquarters and discovered soldiers using the
shipping container in which he was billeted to smoke hashish he reported it.
Two days later members of his platoon, including
Gibbs and Morlock, accused him of "snitching",
gave him a beating and told him to keep his mouth
shut. The soldier reported the beating and
threats to his officers and then told
investigators what he knew of the "kill team".
Following the arrest of the original five accused
in June, seven other soldiers were charged last
month with attempting to cover up the killings
and violent assault on the soldier who reported
the smoking of hashish. The charges will be
considered by a military grand jury later this
month which will decide if there is enough
evidence for a court martial. Army investigators
say Morlock has admitted his involvement in the
killings and given details about the role of
others including Gibbs. But his lawyer, Michael
Waddington, is seeking to have that confession
suppressed because he says his client was
interviewed while under the influence of
prescription drugs taken for battlefield injuries
and that he was also suffering from traumatic brain injury.
"Our position is that his statements were
incoherent, and taken while he was under a
cocktail of drugs that shouldn't have been
mixed," Waddington told the Seattle Times.
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