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LA Times publishes photos of soldiers posing with dead Afghan bodies despite military objections

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The L.A. Times published graphic photos of U.S. soldiers posing with Afghan corpses in both its print and Web publications this morning, disregarding the request of U.S. military officials to exclude them.

In the Times' story, Editor Davan Maharaj said, “after careful consideration, we decided that publishing a small but representative selection of the photos would fulfill our obligation to readers to report vigorously and impartially on all aspects of the American mission in Afghanistan, including the allegation that the images reflect a breakdown in unit discipline that was endangering U.S. troops.”

David Zucchino, the Times reporter who wrote the story, told KPCC's Madeleine Brand that seeing the photos upset him.

"I wish I hadn't seen them. They're very graphic, and obliterated body parts, and guys sort of celebrating, cheering. They're trophy photos," he said.

Taking photos outside of "officially sanctioned purposes" violates Army standards, Army spokesman George Wright told the Times.

Zucchino has been reporting on Afghanistan since 2002, and said being in the country helped him understand the unit's actions.

"These guys see their buddies blown up by IEDs, by suicide bombers ... they're very frustrated because it's very rare to have a face-to-face firefight," he explained. "In this case, they had the chance to come in contact with an insurgent, even a dead insurgent, ... and I can certainly understand their attitude, having been with them many times."

David Zucchino told the journalism organization Poynter that an anonymous soldier who served in the 82nd Airborne Division sent the photos to him on his own accord. Zucchino received 18 from the source, but the Times decided to published only two of them. According to Zucchino, there are no plans to publish the remaining photos.

With contributions from Andrea Wang

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