Pressure Grows on Berlin after New Afghan Skull Photos

A man in Berlin watching TV of German soldiers posing with a human skull in Afghanistan

A German newspaper has published more photographs showing soldiers posing with human skulls and bones in Afghanistan as pressure mounted on the government to find the culprits.

The defence ministry on Friday suspended two soldiers over a first set of photos published this week but Bild newspaper said the new pictures proved that German soldiers in Afghanistan regularly photographed skeletons and skulls, sometimes in obscene poses.

In one of the new photos, a soldier is pointing a gun at a human skeleton, in another a beret has been perched on top of a skull.

One of the pictures shows bones positioned on the ground around four skulls to form the words CSR TEAM. The newspaper on Saturday said CSR was an abbreviation of the military term Campsite Reconnaissance.

The defence ministry has insisted that taking macabre photographs is not widespread.

But soldiers told Bild it was a common way for the 2,800 Germans serving in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan to pass the time in between their peacekeeping and reconstruction activities.

One said: "A lot of soldiers have a got a digital camera and a computer. In their free time, we swap photos."

The bones and skulls appear to have come from mass graves.

The defence ministry at the time the photographs were taken in 2003-04, veteran Social Democrat Peter Struck, said there had been no indication at that time that such behaviour had taken place.

The current defence minister, Franz Josef Jung, has cancelled a planned visit to Asia so that he can stay in Berlin to deal with the scandal, Bild reported, although his office did not immediately confirm this.

Jung said in Die Welt newspaper on Saturday: "I fear that these photos are not the last we will see."

Chancellor Angela Merkel told Focus magazine in remarks to be published on Monday that the photographs could compromise the safety of German troops in Afghanistan.

"It is essential that in Afghanistan it is clear they know that such acts are not tolerated and are punished severely," she said.

Meanwhile the scandal looked set to widen, with a claim from a military psychologist that German soldiers in Kosovo had taken similar photographs.

"I found out in Kosovo that young soldiers were taking photographs of exhumations and autopsies which found their way into the barracks," psychologist Horst Schuh said in an interview with Sunday's Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

Source: AFP

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