Facebook icon
Twitter icon
e-mail icon

Leader of US ‘Kill Team’ begins trial

Staff Sgt Calvin Gibbs, an American soldier accused of committing war crimes in Afghanistan, has admitted taking fingers off bodies as war trophies, as his trial began on Monday.

Gibbs is facing 16 criminal charges, including premeditated murder, before a court martial, all of which he has pleaded not guilty to.

It is alleged that he led a rogue unit of the US Army the 5th Stryker Brigade, known as the “Kill Team”, into murdering innocent Afghan civilians, in Kandahar province in late 2009. Members of the unit then posed with their dead bodies for photos and kept body parts as mementos.

Gibbs maintains that, as far as he knew, he only engaged legitimate targets.

Three of the other "Kill Team" members have agreed to testify against Gibbs as part of plea deals with prosecutors.

Jeremy Morlock, described as Gibbs' "right hand man", told the court,

"He had a general disdain for Afghans, and called them savages."

He described how they went into a village and threw a grenade at a 15-year old Afghan boy who was working in a field. They then fired at him with their weapons, an M4 carbine and a machine gun, to make the murder seem like a legitimate combat engagement. They proceeded to plant weapons on the boy and then posed with his corpse for photos. He then said Gibbs cut off the boy's finger to keep as a trophy.

Earlier this year, German news magazine Der Spiegel and the US-based Rolling Stone magazine published photos and videos taken by Gibbs and his men. (See here)

In March, Morlock, 23, was jailed for 24 years and dishonorably discharged. In August, Winfield, 23, was sentenced to three years in prison, and in September, Holmes, 21, was jailed for seven years.

If convicted, Gibbs faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

See our earlier post: Third US soldier sentenced for war crimes (Sep 2011)

We need your support

Sri Lanka is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist. Tamil journalists are particularly at threat, with at least 41 media workers known to have been killed by the Sri Lankan state or its paramilitaries during and after the armed conflict.

Despite the risks, our team on the ground remain committed to providing detailed and accurate reporting of developments in the Tamil homeland, across the island and around the world, as well as providing expert analysis and insight from the Tamil point of view

We need your support in keeping our journalism going. Support our work today.

For more ways to donate visit https://donate.tamilguardian.com.