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Terrorism & Security

US soldier Morlock sentenced to 24 years for killing Afghan civilians

US Army Spc. Jeremy Morlock pleaded guilty to killing three Afghan civilians as part of a renegade 'kill team' made up of soldiers from the 5th Stryker Brigade.

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The global press is already speculating on how the sentencing of Morlock will affect the United States’ already damaged image in Afghanistan. The UK's Guardian, which headlined its analysis of the trial “US soldier admits killing unarmed Afghans for sport,” called the case “a PR disaster for America’s military.”

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The case has caused outraged headlines around the world. In a series of videotaped confessions to investigators, some of which have been broadcast on American television, Morlock detailed how he and other members of his Stryker brigade set up and faked combat situations so that they could kill civilians who posed no threat to them. Four other soldiers are still to come to trial over the incidents.

The case is a PR disaster for America's military and has been compared to the notorious incidents of torture that emerged from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. This week the German magazine Der Spiegel published three pictures that showed American soldiers, including Morlock, posing with the corpse of a young Afghan boy as if it were a hunting trophy.

The military appears aware of the problem posed by the murders of Afghan civilians at the hands of US troops and is working to distance itself from the renegade soldiers.

"We don't do this. This is not how we're trained. This is not the Army," military prosecutor Capt. Andre Leblanc said in Morlock’s hearing, according to the Los Angeles Times. "Instead of providing these people with the security they needed, instead of building relationships of trust, instead of doing the job we expect of our professional soldiers, the accused and co-accused decided to engage in acts of unspeakable cruelty."

In an interview with The Seattle Times, Morlock's mother said that much of the fault lies with the military leadership for not properly monitoring her son's platoon leader, allegedly the ringleader of the group. She also said that the war changed her son, and when he came home on leave, he was "jumpy, constantly looking over his shoulder, and terrified of returning to his platoon fighting in the southern province of Kandahar," she said – and he was convinced he was going to be killed.

The stress of fighting began taking its toll on Morlock early on in his tour.

"I have been here barely for two months, and I don't think that I will ever be able to talk about some of the things that have happened," Morlock wrote to his mother. "I don't mean to worry you. ... I will be OK. I am too smart for anything to happen to me."

IN PICTURES: On base in Kandahar

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