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Originally published March 20, 2011 at 4:05 PM | Page modified March 21, 2011 at 8:33 AM

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Der Spiegel publishes photos of U.S. soldiers with slain Afghan

The German news organization Der Spiegel has published three photos depicting disturbing images of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan that the Army had sought to keep secret during prosecution of a war-crimes case at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Seattle Times staff reporter

The German news organization Der Spiegel has published three photos depicting disturbing images taken by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan that the Army had sought to keep secret during prosecution of a war-crimes case at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

One shows two Afghans who appear to be dead, leaned up against a post.

The other two photos show two soldiers, who are accused of killing an unarmed Afghan in January 2010, kneeling next to the body of the slain man, who is stretched out prone on the sand and grass.

The two soldiers depicted are:

• Spc. Jeremy Morlock, of Wasilla, Alaska, who is accused of participating in the slaying of that man and two other unarmed Afghans in February and May 2010. He appears to be smiling and raising the head of the corpse on the ground.

• Pfc. Andrew Holmes, who is accused of participating in the killing of that Afghan. He also kneels next to the corpse.

The photos have been placed under a protective order by an Army judge as charges are pressed against Morlock, Holmes and three other soldiers from a Stryker Brigade based in Western Washington that served in Afghanistan from summer 2009 to summer 2010.

In a long war marked by often-strained relations between U.S. forces and Afghans, civilian casualties have been one of the most sensitive issues. U.S. Army officials feared that publication of these photos would be another blow to efforts to improve those relations and had sought to keep the images from leaking to the media.

All the accused served with the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, which since its return to Joint Base Lewis-McChord has been renamed the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.

In a statement released Sunday, the Army called the photos "repugnant" and "contrary to the standards and values of the U.S. Army." The statement apologized for "the distress these photos cause."

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