[News] US soldiers 'killed Afghan civilians for sport and collected fingers as trophies'

Anti-Imperialist News 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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