In February 2010, the 82nd Airborne Division soldiers arrived at a police station in Afghanistan’s Zabol province. Their mission was to get iris scans and fingerprints to indentify the mangled remains of an insurgent suicide bomber that Afghan police had recovered.
The paratroopers then posed for photos next to Afghan police, holding up the corpse’s severed legs while grinning and making hand gestures, the Los Angeles Times reported. (WARNING: Photos are graphic)
A few months later, the same platoon was sent to investigate the remains of three insurgents who Afghan police said had accidentally blown themselves up, the Times reported. After obtaining the fingerprints, they posed next to the remains for more photos.
The Army launched a criminal investigation after the Times showed officials copies of the photos, which were recently given to the Times by a soldier from the division.
“It is a violation of Army standards to pose with corpses for photographs outside of officially sanctioned purposes,” George Wright, an Army spokesman, told the Times. “Such actions fall short of what we expect of our uniformed service members in deployed areas.”
U.S. military officials asked the Times not to publish any of the photos.
According to the Times, these photos were released during a sensitive period for U.S. and Afghanistan relations. In January, a video surfaced on the Internet showing four U.S. Marines urinating on Afghan corpses.
In February, the inadvertent burning of copies of the Koran at a U.S. base stemmed riots that left 30 dead – including six Americans. In March, a U.S. Army sergeant went on a nighttime shooting rampage in two Afghan villages, killing 17.
Capt. John Kirby told the Times that the conduct depicted “most certainly does not represent the character and the professionalism of the great majority of our troops in Afghanistan.
“Nevertheless, this imagery – more than two years old – now has the potential to indict them all in the minds of local Afghans, inciting violence and perhaps causing needless casualties,” the Pentagon spokesman said.
The Army spokesman – Wright – said after the investigation is complete, the Army would “take appropriate action” against those involved.