German paper publishes new Afghan skull photos

Saturday, October 28, 2006; 7:18 AM

BERLIN (Reuters) - A German newspaper on Saturday published new photographs purporting to show German soldiers desecrating human bones in Afghanistan, including a mock execution of a skeleton assembled from various human remains.

The images were published three days after photographs of soldiers striking poses with skulls were plastered across a leading newspaper. Germany on Friday suspended two soldiers for involvement in the desecration.

On Saturday, Bild published a front-page photograph of a soldier holding a pistol to a skull assembled with other bones to form a human skeleton. The paper said more soldiers may have been involved in the scandal than previously thought.

In another picture, a soldier sat on a mound of earth above a skull and crossed bones. A further image showed a pit filled with bones, which Bild said was near Kabul.

The Defense Ministry said on Friday the two suspended soldiers were involved in images taken in 2003. Others were said to be from 2004.

Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed to seek out and punish those responsible and appealed to the Afghan people to react calmly to the scandal.

Fears have arisen that German troops could be exposed to greater dangers after the publication of the photos.

"It is essential that Afghanistan sees that such offences will not be tolerated, but instead pursued relentlessly and punished," Merkel told Focus magazine.

Nine suspects have been investigated so far over the matter.

The photographs emerged as Merkel's government unveiled a long-term national security policy which sees an increasingly important role for the army outside Germany.

On Thursday, Germany told its embassies to tighten security measures due to concerns the photos could harm its image abroad.

© 2006 Reuters