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Pentagon Apologizes, Again, After New Pictures Of 'Kill Team' Are Published

Yesterday, Rolling Stone published new pictures of U.S. Army soldiers posing with the corposes and mutilated cadavers of Afghans. The magazine also published a lengthy piece that it says shows that many in the military knew about a group of soldiers, dubbed the "kill team," who killed Afghan civilians.

The photographs are graphic, but the piece is just as graphic. Rolling Stone says it based its story on internal Army records it obtained. It opens with a conversation between the men of Bravo Company. They're talking about killing civilians and some soldiers questioned the ethics of it, while others were "gung-go from the start." One day, Cpl. Jeremy Morlock and Pfc. Andrew Holmes come across a "fresh faced" 15-year-old farmer named Gul Mudin:

Morlock and Holmes called to him in Pashto as he walked toward them, ordering him to stop. The boy did as he was told. He stood still.

The soldiers knelt down behind a mud-brick wall. Then Morlock tossed a grenade toward Mudin, using the wall as cover. As the grenade exploded, he and Holmes opened fire, shooting the boy repeatedly at close range with an M4 carbine and a machine gun.

Mudin buckled, went down face first onto the ground. His cap toppled off. A pool of blood congealed by his head.

As Mark reported last week, Cpl. Morlock pleaded guilty to three counts of murdering unarmed Afghans. When the first batch of pictures were released by Germany's Der Spiegel, the Army called the photographs "repugnant."

Today, responding to Rolling Stone's pictures, the Pentagon issued a statement, apologizing for the distress they caused and saying the new pictures are in "striking contrast to the standards and values of the United States Army." It added:

"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. We will continue to do whatever we need to as an institution to understand how it happened, why it happened and what we need to do to prevent it from happening again."

In its story, Rolling Stone claims the "kill team" was operating out in the open:

A review of internal Army records and investigative files obtained by Rolling Stone, including dozens of interviews with members of Bravo Company compiled by military investigators, indicates that the dozen infantrymen being portrayed as members of a secretive "kill team" were operating out in the open, in plain view of the rest of the company. 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," according to one soldier who complained about them. Staged killings were an open topic of conversation, and at least one soldier from another battalion in the 3,800-man Stryker Brigade participated in attacks on unarmed civilians. "The platoon has a reputation," a whistle-blower named Pfc. Justin Stoner told the Army Criminal Investigation Command. "They have had a lot of practice staging killings and getting away with it."

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