US military in Afghanistan uncovers sadistic death squad in ranks

September 20, 2010

FIVE American soldiers who formed themselves into a “death squad” go on trial this month for the murder and dismemberment of Afghan villagers.

A US military investigation reported that the group randomly targeted civilians for sport. In one incident, a soldier is alleged to have thrown a grenade to feign an ambush as a pretext to shoot dead an innocent villager. Bodies were cut up and photographed and the soldiers are said to have kept bones and a skull as trophies.

A military pretrial hearing will review evidence later this month and decide how to proceed with the case, which could see the men jailed for life. All the accused deny any wrongdoing.

American commanders fear details of the incidents could cause widespread anger in Afghanistan, where civilian deaths have fostered deep resentment against coalition forces.

The five soldiers are accused of forming a “kill team” and murdering three people in Kandahar province between January and May this year.

Seven others are charged with attempting to impede the military investigation, as well as assaulting a private who blew the whistle on their activities.

The first alleged murder was on Jan 15 while the platoon was guarding a meeting of tribal elders in the village of La Mohammed Kalay, according to case files.

When an Afghan man called Gul Mudin approached the soldiers on foot, one threw a grenade to simulate an attack and several soldiers opened fire, killing him.

Further murders followed in February and May. Marach Agha, the second victim, was shot and killed and a Kalashnikov assault rifle was reportedly placed next to the body to justify his shooting.

The third victim, Mullah Adadhdad, died after being shot and attacked with a grenade.

The relatives of one of the accused have said that the US military failed to prevent the later killings. Christopher Winfield, father of Specialist Adam Winfield, said his son told him of his comrades’ actions and warned they were looking for another victim.

Mr Winfield phoned the unit’s home base in Washington, but was told they could do nothing unless his son reported his fears to his superiors, the Washington Post has reported.

Sgt Calvin Gibbs, Cpl Jeremy Morlock, Private first class Andrew Holmes, Spc Michael Wagnon and Spc Winfield stand accused of the killings. They were serving with the 5th Stryker Combat Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, which suffered nearly 300 casualties in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar before its tour ended in July this year.


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