The U.S. Army has apologized after shocking photos including that of a grinning soldier posing with the corpse of a civilian in Afghanistan appeared in the German magazine Der Spiegel.
The photos published in Spiegel on Sunday show two soldiers as they hold up the head of a corpse identified as an Afghan civilian, according to Bloomberg. Spiegel said it published three out of 4,000 photos and videos it obtained during a five-month investigation.
According to the Daily Mail, the photos were and among several seized by Army investigators looking into the deaths of three unarmed Afghans in Kandahar province last year. Five soldiers based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, south of Seattle, have been charged with murder and conspiracy in the case.
The photographs were reportedly taken by a "rogue" U.S. Army unit in Afghanistan in 2010, according to the BBC.
Making the public apology, Col. Thomas Collins said in a statement: "Der Spiegel published photographs depicting 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.”
The photos were already being used as evidence in a court martial, he said, a likely reference to the action against soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Their publication breaches a protective order issued by military officials as part of the proceedings this week, the Associated Press reported.
It is not known how Der Spiegel obtained the photos, one of which shows a key figure in the investigation, Cpl. Jeremy Morlock of Wasilla, Alaska, grinning as he lifts the head of a corpse by the hair, according to the Daily Mail.
Der Spiegel identified the body as that of Gul Mudin, whom Morlock was charged with killing on January 15, 2010, in Kandahar Province.
Another photo shows Pvt 1st Class Andrew Holmes, of Boise, Idaho, holding the head of the same corpse. According to the Daily Mail, his lawyer said Sunday that Holmes was ordered "to be in the photo, so he got in the photo. That doesn't make him a murderer."
The Army, meanwhile, said: "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 Army said.