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US soldier Morlock sentenced to 24 years for killing Afghan civilians

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Morlock said the unit was in a village so that army leaders could meet with elders.

He and Private Holmes [another alleged member of the “kill team”] were on patrol when a man walked toward the two soldiers, who positioned themselves behind a waist-high wall.

Morlock tossed a grenade over the wall near himself and Holmes to make it appear as if the Afghan man had thrown it, and Holmes fired at the man with his machine gun.

In a plea bargain, Morlock pleaded guilty to three counts of murder and one count each of conspiracy, illegal drug use, and obstructing justice. Colonel Hawks said that he intended to sentence Morlock to life in prison, but since Morlock agreed to testify against his fellow soldiers, the sentence was reduced to 24 years in prison.

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.”

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.

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