US soldiers 'killed Afghan civilians for
sport and collected fingers as trophies'
Soldiers face charges over secret 'kill team' which allegedly murdered
at random and collected fingers as trophies of war
The Guardian, 09 Sept, 2010
Twelve American soldiers face charges over a secret "kill
team" that allegedly blew up and shot Afghan civilians at
random and collected their fingers as trophies.
Five of the soldiers are charged with murdering three
Afghan men who were allegedly killed for sport in separate
attacks this year. Seven others are accused of covering up
the killings and assaulting a recruit who exposed the
murders when he reported other abuses, including members of
the unit smoking hashish stolen from civilians.
In one of the most serious accusations of war crimes to
emerge from the Afghan conflict, the killings are alleged
to have been carried out by members of a Stryker infantry
brigade based in Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan.
According to investigators and legal documents, discussion
of killing Afghan civilians began after the arrival of
Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs at forward operating base
Ramrod last November. Other soldiers told the army's
criminal investigation command that Gibbs boasted of the
things he got away with while serving in Iraq and said how
easy it would be to "toss a grenade at someone and kill
One soldier said he believed Gibbs was "feeling out the
Investigators said Gibbs, 25, hatched a plan with another
soldier, Jeremy Morlock, 22, and other members of the unit
to form a "kill team". While on patrol over the following
months they allegedly killed at least three Afghan
civilians. According to the charge sheet, the first target
was Gul Mudin, who was killed "by means of throwing a
fragmentary grenade at him and shooting him with a rifle",
when the patrol entered the village of La Mohammed Kalay in
Morlock and another soldier, Andrew Holmes, were on guard
at the edge of a poppy field when Mudin emerged and stopped
on the other side of a wall from the soldiers. Gibbs
allegedly handed Morlock a grenade who armed it and dropped
it over the wall next to the Afghan and dived for cover.
Holmes, 19, then allegedly fired over the wall.
Later in the day, Morlock is alleged to have told Holmes
that the killing was for fun and threatened him if he told
The second victim, Marach Agha, was shot and killed the
following month. Gibbs is alleged to have shot him and
placed a Kalashnikov next to the body to justify the
killing. In May Mullah Adadhdad was killed after being shot
and attacked with a grenade.
The Army Times reported that a least one of the soldiers
collected the fingers of the victims as souvenirs and that
some of them posed for photographs with the bodies.
Five soldiers – Gibbs, Morlock, Holmes, Michael Wagnon and
Adam Winfield – are accused of murder and aggravated
assault among other charges. All of the soldiers have
denied the charges. They face the death penalty or life in
prison if convicted.
The killings came to light in May after the army began
investigating a brutal assault on a soldier who told
superiors that members of his unit were smoking hashish.
The Army Times reported that members of the unit regularly
smoked the drug on duty and sometimes stole it from
The soldier, who was straight out of basic training and has
not been named, said he witnessed the smoking of hashish
and drinking of smuggled alcohol but initially did not
report it out of loyalty to his comrades. But when he
returned from an assignment at an army headquarters and
discovered soldiers using the shipping container in which
he was billeted to smoke hashish he reported it.
Two days later members of his platoon, including Gibbs and
Morlock, accused him of "snitching", gave him a beating and
told him to keep his mouth shut. The soldier reported the
beating and threats to his officers and then told
investigators what he knew of the "kill team".
Following the arrest of the original five accused in June,
seven other soldiers were charged last month with
attempting to cover up the killings and violent assault on
the soldier who reported the smoking of hashish. The
charges will be considered by a military grand jury later
this month which will decide if there is enough evidence
for a court martial. Army investigators say Morlock has
admitted his involvement in the killings and given details
about the role of others including Gibbs. But his lawyer,
Michael Waddington, is seeking to have that confession
suppressed because he says his client was interviewed while
under the influence of prescription drugs taken for
battlefield injuries and that he was also suffering from
traumatic brain injury.
"Our position is that his statements were incoherent, and
taken while he was under a cocktail of drugs that shouldn't
have been mixed," Waddington told the Seattle Times.