The United States Army has offered an apology for any distress caused by recently published images of some of its soldiers posing with corpses of Afghan civilians they are accused of killing for sport.
The army's statement came after the U.S.-based Rolling Stone magazine published a report that included graphic images from Afghanistan of members of an alleged rogue army unit kill team accused of killing Afghan civilians for sport. German magazine Der Spiegel had published similar images last week.
The photos published by Rolling Stone are disturbing and in striking contrast to the standards and values of the United States Army, the U.S. Army said in a statement on Monday.
Like those published by Der Spiegel, the Army apologizes for the distress these latest photos cause, the statement said, adding that accountability remains the Army's paramount concern in these alleged crimes, and we continue to investigate leads.
The photos published by Rolling Stone and Der Spiegel are reportedly linked to incidents that took place in Afghanistan's Kandahar province between January and May last year. The latest developments come in the midst of an ongoing probe by U.S. military investigators of alleged war crimes committed in Afghanistan involving members of the U.S. 5th Stryker Brigade.
One of the soldiers, Army Specialist Jeremy Morlock, was sentenced last week to 24 years in prison after pleading guilty to three counts of murder, conspiracy and other charges and apologized in court, saying, I lost my moral compass. Morlock said the killings were part of a deliberate plan to murder Afghan civilians.
In its statement, the U.S. Army said: We must allow the judicial process to continue to unfold and be mindful that the government has distinct obligations to the victims and to the accused, which include compliance with the court's protective order to ensure a fair trial.
That said, the Army will relentlessly pursue the truth, no matter where it leads, both in and out of court, no matter how unpleasant it may be, no matter how long it takes. As an Army, we are troubled that any soldier would lose his ‘moral compass’ as one soldier said during his trial, the army said.
Rolling Stone also posted online a video clip showing U.S. soldiers gunning down two Afghan men as they ride on their motorcycle, though it was unclear whether the two men were armed as the troops claim in the footage.
As for the motorcycle video, it's not connected to any of the current criminal charges. We don't know if a crime was committed, Army Spokesman Col. Tom Collins told FOX News.