WASHINGTON: A US soldier already facing murder charges for allegedly killing Afghan civilians is also linked to the 2004 deaths of several unarmed Iraqi soldiers, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs is accused, along with four other soldiers, of opening fire on Afghan civilians in unprovoked assaults over several months in southern Kandahar province. Seven others are accused of dismembering bodies and removing bones.
A first day of pre-trial hearings opened Monday, focusing on Specialist Jeremy Morlock. But the proceedings stalled amid a decision by several witnesses and three of the accused to invoke their right to remain silent.
Citing a report filed by a special agent for the US Army’s Criminal Investigations Command, The Washington Post said Gibbs and the others had actually killed four Afghan civilians, not three as initially disclosed by the US Army.
Army investigative reports also found that soldiers in Gibbs’s unit — the 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, and 1st Infantry Regiment — gave sworn statements saying it was his idea to randomly target Afghan civilians and lie about the affair, the Post added.
It said the US Army was now scrutinizing Gibbs’s past, including two tours of duty in Afghanistan and one in Iraq, especially reexamining a 2004 incident in which he and other soldiers allegedly fired on an unarmed Iraqi family riding in a car, killing two adults and a child.
Soldiers who served with Gibbs in Afghanistan told investigators he pressed his comrades to cut fingers off Afghan corpses, and kept at least two fingers wrapped in cloth hidden in an empty water bottle, according to the Post.
Some said he planned to intimidate other members of his unit to keep quiet and one soldier said Gibbs claimed he planned to make a necklace with the fingers.
One member of Gibbs’s unit said Gibbs once brandished a pair of black shears after seeing a badly mangled corpse of a suspected insurgent.
"I wonder if these can cut off a finger." Gibbs said, according to Corporal Emmit Quintal.
Quintal also told a special agent that drug use was rampant in his unit, acknowledging that "nearly his entire platoon had been smoking hashish consistently… sometimes as often as every day or every other day," the Post said.