British Press Agitated Over Report of Soldier Keeping Taliban Fingers

A Scottish soldier is accused of keeping the fingers as 'souvenirs'

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By now, nearly all the major British news outlets have picked up The Sun's report this morning that Britain's Ministry of Defense is investigating allegations that a Scottish soldier sliced fingers off dead Taliban fighters in Helmand province to keep as "souvenirs." But while many articles are recounting the gruesome details in the British tabloid's report and the outrage they've sparked, they're also placing the story in a larger context.

The Telegraph, for example, notes that the accusations, if true, could be damaging to the "'hearts and mind' battle against the Taliban as Muslim tradition dictates that the dead must be buried with all their body parts." Scottish politician Willie Rennie asks whether U.K. soldiers could be suffering from the stresses of war, noting that "if these sickening acts were the result of severe military trauma, then the Army needs to act quickly to ensure that others are not suffering in this way," according to The Sun. Other outlets are recalling past abuses by the British military. The Guardian points out that a private in the Royal Gurkha Rifles was disciplined last year and sent back to the UK after he severed the head of a Taliban warlord in order to prove that his unit had killed the right person. The Daily Mail, meanwhile, notes that the British government recently awarded relatives of Iraqi civilians who were unlawfully killed by British troops in Iraq thousands of pounds in compensation. A British military official tells The Daily Mail that even with these parallels, allegations of abuse are low. "This is not endemic," he stated.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.