A military jury is considering its verdict in the trial of a US soldier accused of leading a “kill team” in Afghanistan which murdered unarmed civilians and collected body parts as war trophies.

Staff sergeant Calvin Gibbs, 26, faces a range of charges including murder, assault and conspiracy over the killings of three Afghans in separate incidents last year, in situations allegedly staged to look as if the victims were combatants.

In one of the most serious accusations of war crimes to emerge from the Afghan conflict, Gibbs is alleged to have recruited other soldiers to murder civilians he called “savages” after he took over command of a US army platoon in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province in November 2009.

The military prosecutor, major Rob Stelle, told the court: “Sergeant Gibbs had a charisma, he had a ‘follow me’ personality. But it was all a bunch of crap, he had his own mission: murder and depravity. No one died before Sergeant Gibbs showed up”.

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