US soldier to face court-martial in Afghan Civilians killing
JNN 08 Jan 2011 SEATTLE: A US Army staff sergeant was ordered on Friday to be tried by a military court to face charges that include murdering three unarmed Afghan civilians, keeping body parts as grisly war trophies and beating a whistle-blower who told superiors about widespread hashish use in his unit.
Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs, 25, is one of five soldiers from the Stryker Brigade charged with murder. Twelve soldiers in all face charges in the most serious prosecutions of alleged war atrocities by US military deployed in Afghanistan since the war began in 2001.
JNN has learned the Army is also re-examining a 2004 shooting that involved Gibbs in Iraq in which three members of a family were killed.
After his May 11 arrest in Afghanistan, Gibbs showed investigators a tattoo on his lower left leg depicting crossed pistols and six skulls. He told investigators the skulls were a way to keep track of his kills in both Iraq and Afghanistan, according to investigative interview notes shown to JNN.
And a soldier under his command told investigators Gibbs “associates with skinheads online,” the investigative notes show. The soldier, who is not charged, told investigators the skinheads “are worse than most gang members I have ever met.”
Gibbs, of Billings, Montana, was ordered to stand trial by Major General Curtis Scaparrotti, commanding officer of Joint Base Lewis-McChord. No date was set.
The Stryker Brigade cases, with some 4,000 photographs sealed from public view including some reportedly of soldiers posing with Afghan casualties, have drawn comparisons to the inflammatory Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq in 2004.
According to investigative documents made available to JNN, Gibbs collected human fingers from his victims. Also, the Army has accused members of Gibbs’ platoon of possessing photographs of victims.
And JNN has learned the Army is now re-examining Gibbs’ record in Iraq, where he was involved in the killing of an Iraqi family in the summer of 2004.
Gibbs faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment without parole for charges that include premeditated murder in the deaths of three unarmed Afghan civilians, including a cleric, in the Afghan villages of La Muhammad Kalay in January 2010, Khari Kleyl in February 2010 and Qualaday in May 2010, according to court documents.
Gibbs allegedly kept fingers, severed with medical shears, and displayed them at platoon mates to intimidate them.
He faces a dozen other charges that include keeping body parts such as teeth, finger and leg bones as war trophies.
The cases began as an investigation into hashish use by members of what was then known as the 5th Stryker Brigade, but grew into a probe of what prosecutors described as an infantry unit run amok.
Phillip Stackhouse, a civilian attorney defending Gibbs, has described Gibbs’ involvement as legitimate combat killings, He was not immediately available for comment on the order.