BERLIN: German authorities are questioning 20 suspects in an investigation into the desecration of human skulls by German soldiers in Afghanistan, the Defence Ministry said on Monday.
Two soldiers were suspended last week for their involvement in the desecration after top-selling Bild newspaper published pictures of soldiers posing for the camera with human remains.
A Defence Ministry spokesman told reporters the 20 individuals now under investigation were low-ranking soldiers, below officer grade, and several had already left the army.
The Defence Ministry is conducting investigations into those still in the army and German state prosecutors are in charge of probes into those no longer in the forces.
The images have sparked outrage in Germany and the emergence of several batches of pictures from different times indicate the problem could be widespread.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has described the behaviour as inexcusable and said those involved would be punished.
The authorities are investigating three separate cases, the Defence Ministry spokesman said.
Seven individuals were being questioned over the original pictures in last Wednesday's Bild which it says were taken in April 2003.
A further four suspects are under investigation in connection with pictures shown by broadcaster RTL which it says are from March 2004.
In addition, the authorities are questioning nine suspects over pictures printed in Bild on Saturday which it said are from the end of 2003 or start of 2004.
They include one photograph purporting to show a German soldier carrying out a mock execution of a skeleton assembled from various human remains.
The spokesman said further pictures may yet come to light.