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(RNN) – The White House is condemning photos that appear to show U.S. soldiers posing alongside the bodies of Afghan suicide bombers, calling them "reprehensible."
The photos came into the possession of the LA Times after another soldier made them public, saying they demonstrated a breakdown in command and leadership among the platoon.
In one photo, two soldiers are shown near a deceased bomber, with one of them touching or moving the body. In the second photo, U.S. soldiers are holding the mangled corpse of an alleged bomber by the feet and ankles.
The Times says 18 photos in all were brought to them by the soldier, who was not named in the report. The photos were apparently taken in 2010 during a deployment of the 3,500-member brigade, which lost 35 men.
At least 23 members of the brigade were killed by homemade bombs or suicide bombers, the Times reported.
High-ranking members of the U.S. government and military came out in strong opposition to the photos, including President Barack Obama.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president believes the situation needs to be investigated and those responsible should be held accountable. Carney said he did not know if the president had seen the images.
A statement made by the White House called the conduct depicted in the pictures "reprehensible."
CNN says Defense Secretary Leon Panetta condemned them, as well.
Pentagon spokesman George Little said Panetta also is disappointed the Times released the photos "despite our request not to publish these photographs."
"The danger is that this material could be used by the enemy to incite violence against U.S. and Afghan service members in Afghanistan," Little said.
The commander of the International Security Assistance Force said in a statement the photos are not representative of the values of the U.S. or its forces.
"The actions of the individuals photographed do not represent the policies of ISAF or the U.S. Army," Allen said. "This behavior and these images are entirely inconsistent with the values of ISAF and all service members of the fifty ISAF countries serving in Afghanistan.
"We continue to work with our Afghan and international partners to resolve any issues related to improper treatment of remains. This incident is being thoroughly investigated by U.S. national authorities."
ISAF stated it has a strict policy for handling of enemy remains and dictates they be processed as humanely as possible. The incident depicted in the Times photographs represents a serious error in judgment by soldiers who acted out of ignorance and unfamiliarity with U.S. Army values, according to the release.
"These actions undermine the daily sacrifices of thousands of ISAF troops who continue to serve honorably in Afghanistan," Allen added. "We will collaborate with Afghan authorities and carefully examine the facts and circumstances shown in these photos. As part of this process, we will determine responsibility and accountability of those involved."
The Army has launched a criminal investigation into the matter, and stated most of the soldiers have been identified.
The soldiers' mission
According to the Times, members of the 82nd Airborne Division had been assigned to verify the identities of the remains of a suicide bomber found in the Zabol province in Afghanistan by Afghan police.
The soldiers were also told to recover the body.
The anonymous source in the Times story was a soldier who served in the same division. He told the Times that those soldiers then took pictures with the bomber's legs held in the air.
The Times also reported the same platoon responded a few months later to a report of three bombers who accidentally blew themselves up.
Again, they allegedly took photos, including one with a bomber's middle finger raised and another with a "Zombie Hunter" patch placed beside the bodies.
The Times reportedly sent requests for comment to seven soldiers involved. One serving in Afghanistan declined to comment, and the others did not respond, said LA Times editor Davan Maharaj.
Maharaj said the paper felt the public interest was served by publishing a limited sample of the photos along with a story explaining the circumstances.
"At the end of the day, our job is to publish information that our readers need to make informed decisions," he said. "We have a particular duty to report vigorously and impartially on all aspects of the American mission in Afghanistan."
The U.S. military has dealt with multiple controversies in recent months, most notably the alleged killing of 16 Afghan civilians by Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. It has also investigated at least two other incidences of soldiers posing either with actual dead bodies, or other soldiers depicted as deceased.
Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.
The editor of the Los Angeles Times said they considered "very carefully" whether to publish photos showing U.S. soldiers posing with dead suicide bombers. In a live chat on the Times website, editorMore>>