Disturbing details are emerging about a so called "death squad" of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan who killed civilians and kept parts of the corpses as trophies.
The Daily Mail quotes an investigation by Rolling Stone magazine which claims that soldiers cut off part of a dead teenager's finger and hacked off part of another man's skull.
Last week Army Specialist Jeremy Morlock pleaded guilty to his role and was sentenced to 24 years in prison.
Four more soldiers also face court-martial; alleged ringleader Sergeant Calvin Gibbs, Specialist Adam C. Winfield, Specialist Michael S. Wagnon II and Private first class Andrew H. Holmes.
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They were all part of the 5th Stryker Combat Brigade, of the 2nd Infantry Division, accused of carrying out at least four executions in Kandahar last year.
The soldiers allegedly opened fire on civilians for no reason and covered up their attacks by planting guns on their victims. The magazine claims that for the soldiers, "killing innocent Afghan civilians became less a reason for concern than a cause for celebration."
Their first alleged kill was a 15-year-old boy, whose finger was removed and kept by one of the soldiers as a trophy.
"He wanted to keep the finger forever and wanted to dry it out," the magazine quoted a friend as saying. "He was proud of his finger."
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Rolling Stone said the finger was later used as a bet in a poker game.
The soldiers are also accused of taking pictures and videotaping some of their victims, as well as creating videos of deadly bombings in Afghanistan and passing them around to other troops.
The Rolling Stone article claims this was no secret operation; rather, everybody knew about it. It wrote:
Far from being clandestine, as the Pentagon has implied, the murders of civilians were common knowledge among the unit and understood to be illegal by pretty much the whole platoon.
Seven other members of the unit were charged with lesser crimes. Four of them have already pleaded guilty and been sentenced.