The German newsmagazine Der Spiegel has published two photographs of U.S. Army soldiers posing with the corpse of an Afghan civilian, The Washington Post reports. The photographs are included in the print issue of Der Spiegel being distributed today, but advance copies of the images were sent to subscribers in an email over the weekend.
The Washington Post reports that the photographs depict a moment shortly after the civilian was killed in an incident the Army has classified as a murder.
The photos are among several hundred the Army has sought to keep under wraps as it prosecutes five members of the 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, for the alleged murders of three unarmed Afghan civilians last year. The photographs published by Der Spiegel were among those covered by a judicial protective order issued by a military judge, prohibiting their public release.
The Post, which reviewed the photographs, says one depicts Spec. Jeremy N. Morlock of Wasilla, Alaska, smiling and crouching next to the corpse of Gul Mudin, who was killed Jan. 15, 2010. The other photograph shows Pfc. Andrew H. Holmes of Boise, Idaho next to Mudin’s body. Morlock and Holmes have both been charged with murder in Mudin’s case, and Morlock, who has pleaded guilty to a total of three charges of murder, is scheduled to be sentenced at a court-martial on Wednesday.
One of Morlock’s attorneys said the photographs do not have a time or date stamp, and called the setting and identity of the corpse “mere speculation.” But one of Holmes’ attorneys confirmed the authenticity of the photo showing his client, while adding that Holmes had been ordered to be in the picture by his superiors.
A third photograph published by Der Spiegel today allegedly depicts two dead, handcuffed Afghan civilians.
In response to the release of the photographs, the U.S. Army issued a statement, calling the photographs “repugnant to us as human beings and contrary to the standards and values of the United States Army.”
“We apologize for the distress these photos cause,” the Army statement said, according to the Post. “The actions portrayed in these photographs remain under investigation and are now the subject of ongoing U.S. court-martial proceedings, in which the accused are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”
The UK paper The Guardian reports that military commanders in Afghanistan “are bracing themselves for possible riots and public fury triggered” by the release of the photographs. On Sunday night, The Guardian says, organizations employing foreign staff in Afghanistan, including the U.N., ordered their staff into “lockdown.”
The U.S. Army did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.
Late Update: Gawker has published copies of the photographs obtained by Der Spiegel here.
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com