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Soldier to face court-martial in Afghan deaths

By Laura Myers
Saturday, October 16, 2010; A5

SEATTLE - A U.S. soldier accused of terrorizing unarmed Afghan civilians as part of a rogue infantry platoon in Afghanistan will face a court-martial on murder charges and other offenses, the military said Friday.

Army Spec. Jeremy Morlock, 22, of Wasilla, Alaska, is charged with three counts of premeditated murder in the deaths. The charges carry the death penalty.

No trial date has been set for the court-martial, according to a statement from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the home base of Morlock's Army unit.

Morlock and other soldiers from his Stryker Combat Brigade platoon are accused of taking ghoulish photos of corpses and taking body parts as war trophies while deployed to Kandahar province, an insurgent stronghold.

Morlock is one of five soldiers charged with murder in the case. Seven others are charged with lesser offenses, such as conspiracy.

Morlock's civilian attorney, Michael Waddington, has said that the three slain Afghans - two killed by grenades and rifle fire, one by gunfire alone - were victims of a "rogue platoon running around killing people" and that his client, while present, "did not cause the deaths of any of these individuals."

The investigation has raised questions about whether the accused, all enlisted men, were influenced by commanders who may have been contemptuous of the Army's counterinsurgency doctrine in Afghanistan, which emphasized winning the trust of the local population.

Last month, during the first evidentiary hearing on the case, an Article 32 proceeding, prosecutors characterized Morlock as the right-hand man to the accused ringleader, Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs.

- Reuters

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