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US soldier kept fingers and teeth of his victims

A US soldier accused of exhorting his bored underlings to kill three Afghan civilians for sport has been convicted of murder and conspiracy in one of the most gruesome cases to emerge from the war.

The military jury sentenced Staff Sgt Calvin Gibbs to life in prison, but he will be eligible for parole in less than nine years.

Gibbs was the highest ranking of five soldiers charged in the deaths of the unarmed men during patrols in Kandahar province early last year.

At his court martial, the 26-year-old acknowledged cutting fingers off corpses and yanking out a victim's tooth to keep as war trophies, "like keeping the antlers off a deer you'd shoot".



Thirsty

But he insisted he wasn't involved in the first or third killings, and in the second he merely returned fire.

Prosecutors said Gibbs and his co-defendants knew the victims posed no danger but dropped weapons by their bodies to make them appear to have been combatants.

Three of the co-defendants pleaded guilty, and two of them testified against Gibbs, portraying him as an imposing, bloodthirsty leader who in one instance played with a victim's corpse and moved the mouth like a puppet.

Gibbs's lawyer insisted they conspired to blame him for what they had done and told the five jurors the case represented "the ultimate betrayal of an infantryman".



Trust

Prosecutor Major Andre LeBlanc told jurors that Gibbs was supposed to protect the Afghan people but instead caused many to lose trust in Americans. Maj LeBlanc noted that Gibbs repeatedly called the Afghans "savages."

"Ladies and gentlemen, there is the savage -- Staff Sgt Gibbs is the savage," he said.

Gibbs's lawyer Phil Stackhouse asked for leniency -- life with parole -- and noted that Gibbs could be eligible for parole after 10 years if they allowed it.

"He'd like you to know he has had failures in his life and he's had a lot of time to think about them," Mr Stackhouse said.

"He wants you to know he's not the same person he was in Afghanistan. He doesn't want his wife to have to raise their son on her own."

hnews@herald.ie


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