U.S. army apologises over "repugnant" Afghan photos

Mon Mar 21, 2011 9:22am EDT

* U.S. army apologises for distress caused by photos

* Five soldiers charged with murdering 3 Afghan villagers

* Soldier Jeremy Morlock to testify against co-defendants

BERLIN, March 21 (Reuters) - Germany's Der Spiegel magazine published pictures on Monday of American troops posing over the bloodied body of a man it said had been killed illegally in Afghanistan, drawing an apology from the U.S. army.

The magazine said one of the pictures showed a smiling Army Specialist Jeremy Morlock, who agreed last month to plead guilty to murder charges and testify against his co-defendants in a court martial, according to his lawyer. [ID:nN27254117]

In a statement, the U.S. army said the photos depicted "actions 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," said the statement issued through the U.S. embassy in Berlin.

Morlock is one of five soldiers charged with murdering three Afghan villagers whose killings were allegedly staged to look like legitimate combat casualties.

The dozens of war-related photos seized as evidence are intensely embarrassing for the United States and have drawn comparisons with pictures of Iraqi prisoners taken by U.S. military personnel at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2004.

The army said actions shown in the photographs were now the subject of the court-martial.

"The photos appear in stark contrast to the discipline, professionalism and respect that have characterized our soldiers' performance during nearly 10 years of sustained operations (in Afghanistan)."

The deal with prosecutors, subject to the approval of a military judge, calls for Morlock, 22, from Wasilla, Alaska, to serve no more than 24 years in prison, as opposed to the life term he faced if convicted of all charges in a trial. (Reporting by David Stamp; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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