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Marine Corps Investigates Disturbing Video of Alleged Abuse of Taliban Corpses

January 12th 2012

Crime Topics - marines and corpse good

The U.S. Marine Corps says it is investigating a video depicting what appears to be U.S. servicemen urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters. In a statement, the Marine Corps said it has not verified the origin or authenticity of the video, but it said the actions portrayed are not consistent with Marine values. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby called the video deeply troubling. "Whoever it is, and whatever the circumstances -- which we know is under investigation -- it is egregious behavior and unacceptable for a member of the military," Kirby said.

The video shows four men with U.S. military uniforms, military rifles, and Kevlar helmets. Speaking with American accents, they laugh as they urinate on the bodies of three bearded men stretched out on the ground near a mud-brick wall. One of the men laughs and says "in the heart" as he urinates on the chest of one of the corpses. "Have a great day, buddy," another says sarcastically. The identity of the man who shot the video, which was posted on YouTube and other websites, was not immediately clear. But the cameraman speaks with an American accent and is wearing a military glove like some of the others. The office of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who is due to meet in Kabul this weekend with U.S. envoy on Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman, said in a statement that the Afghan government "is deeply disturbed" by the video.

The video comes at a sensitive moment, with Washington trying to promote Afghan reconciliation just as U.S. troops gradually withdraw from the country. The Taliban earlier this month agreed to set up a political office in Qatar for negotiations with the international community, but also demanded the release of its prisoners from the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay as a form of prisoner exchange.

Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid today denounced the footage as "barbaric." But Reuters quotes Mujahid as saying "the video will not harm our talks and prisoner exchange" because the political process is in the preliminary stages. He said Taliban fighters will, in the meantime, continue their armed struggle. The footage has outraged many Afghans, regardless of their views on the Taliban. Kandahar resident Amanullah says it damages prospects for peace talks. "We condemn this action by U.S. soldiers who have urinated on the dead bodies of Taliban fighters. It will harm the peace talks," Amanullah said. "It seems that the United States never wants peace talks to happen in Afghanistan, and this action will increase misery in the country."

Kabul resident Feda Mohammad says anti-American sentiments in Afghanistan have been aggravated. "The U.S. soldiers who urinated on the dead bodies of Muslims have committed a crime," Mohammad said. "Since they have committed such a crime, we don't want them anymore on our soil. We don't like foreign soldiers to be on our soil. They have to leave." Kandahar resident Tawab Khan says the perpetrators should be identified and put on trial. "All of us Muslims condemn this action by foreign soldiers, who have urinated on the bodies of Taliban fighters. It is against Islam and the international community's role," Khan said. "We want the Human Rights Commission to prosecute this brutal action and arrest the criminals of this incident."

Anti-American feelings have boiled over into violence several times in Afghanistan in recent years. Protests over reports of the desecration of the Koran have twice sparked deadly riots.

Ron Synovitz writes for RFE/RL, from where this article was adapted.

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