Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

U.S. sorry after soldiers pose with body parts of Afghans

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WASHINGTON -- The White House and the Pentagon voiced regrets Wednesday for newly published photographs that purport to show U.S. troops posing with the bodies of dead insurgents in Afghanistan, with Defence Secretary Leon Panetta calling them a violation of America's "core values."

"My apology is on behalf of the Department of Defence and the U.S. government," Panetta said following a NATO meeting in Brussels.

At the White House, U.S. President Barack Obama's chief spokesman, Jay Carney, echoed Panetta's comments, saying the incident was "reprehensible." It was the latest in a series of recent Afghan battlefield embarrassments for the United States, and it came at a time when Washington is still working with President Hamid Karzai in Kabul to smooth over strained relations.

Many troops take photos -- and some take 'trophy' photos -- of their tours of duty on the battlefield. The practice has harmed war efforts in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The most notorious case was that of Abu Ghraib, an Iraq prison where members of the Maryland-based 372nd Military Police Company photographed themselves physically and sexually abusing detainees.

More recently video surfaced of U.S. marines urinating on Afghan corpses.

Carney said the most recent picture-taking incident does not represent the standards of the U.S. military and said Obama believes the situation needs to be investigated and those responsible held accountable. He said he didn't know if the president had seen the photos.

The photos were published in Wednesday's Los Angeles Times. One shows members of the 82nd Airborne Division posing in 2010 with Afghan police and the severed legs of a suicide bomber. The same platoon a few months later was sent to investigate the remains of three insurgents reported to have accidentally blown themselves up -- and soldiers again posed and mugged for photographs with the remains, the newspaper said. A photo from that incident appears to show the hand of a dead insurgent resting on a U.S. soldier's shoulder as the soldier smiles.

The army said an investigation is ongoing.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 19, 2012 A13

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