Afghan president says photos of US troops 'odious'
KABUL, Afghanistan -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday condemned newly revealed photographs that show U.S. soldiers posing with the bloodied remains of three suicide bombers, calling the pictures "disgusting."
Karzai also warned in a statement that "similar incidents of an odious nature" in the past sparked angry reactions from Afghans, including violent protests that left dozens dead.
"It is such a disgusting act to take photos with body parts and then share it with others," Karzai said.
The photos were published in Wednesday's Los Angeles Times. One shows members of the 82nd Airborne Division posing in 2010 with Afghan police holding the severed legs of a suicide bomber. The same platoon a few months later was sent to investigate the remains of three insurgents reported to have accidentally blown themselves up - and soldiers again posed and mugged for a photo with the remains, the newspaper said.
A photo from the second incident appears to show the hand of a dead insurgent resting on a U.S. soldier's shoulder as the soldier smiles.
The White House called the two-year-old photos "reprehensible," joining U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other top military officials in expressing regret for the latest in a string of embarrassing missteps by the U.S. military in a war that's built on earning the trust and confidence of ordinary Afghans. In recent months, American troops have been caught up in controversies over burning Muslim holy books, urinating on Afghan corpses and an alleged massacre of 17 Afghan villagers.
After the burning of the Qurans in February, large-scale demonstrations erupted that killed more left more than 30 Afghan civilians and six Americans dead. However, there were few protests after a video in January when U.S. Marines were found to have recorded themselves urinating on the bodies of dead Afghans.
Many Afghan lawmakers on Thursday played down possibility of the new photos sparking mass protests, saying there was little sympathy among the general population for suicide bombers, especially after weekend Taliban attacks in Kabul and other provinces at the start of the militants' spring campaign against Afghan security forces and the U.S.-led coalition.
"It is different from an American soldier going and killing children, or Americans burning holy Qurans. These issues and the suicide bombers are completely different," said Hafiz Mansour, a member of parliament from the northern province of Panjshir. "I don't think there will be big protests."
The photos were mentioned on the evening newscasts of several broadcasters, but not everyone in Afghanistan owns a television and very few have access to the Internet. There are no newspapers published on Thursday and Friday, the Afghan weekend.
Mohammad Naim Lalai Hamidzai, a parliamentarian from southern Kandahar, said protests would only erupt if there was an organized attempt to generate them.
"Otherwise the people of Afghanistan remember the killing of innocent people by suicide bombers and people do not have a good image of these suicide bombers," Hamidzai said. "The burning of Qurans and the killing of children create emotions in people, but there is no sympathy for suicide bombers who kill innocent people."
Last December, a bomber detonated his explosives-filled vest at the entrance of a mosque in the capital, Kabul, killing 80 worshippers during the Shiite Muslim rituals of Ashoura. It was the single deadliest suicide attack since 2008.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid condemned the pictures as disrespectful. In an email, he condemned both the U.S. soldiers who took the pictures and the Afghan police who also featured in them.
"We strongly condemn these occupiers and their puppets who are without culture, who are brutal and inhuman," Mujahid said.