Footage of 'barbaric' US marines urinating over war dead surfaces on web
US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta last night condemned the "utterly deplorable" behaviour of several American marines accused of urinating on the bloody corpses of Taliban fighters and promised those involved would be punished "to the fullest extent".
The incident, which was captured on video and posted online on Tuesday, united the American and Afghan governments in condemnation with Mr Panetta promising a full investigation and swift justice for those responsible.
"I find the behaviour depicted in it (the video) utterly deplorable," Mr Panetta said. "This conduct is entirely inappropriate for members of the United States military and does not reflect the standards or values our armed forces are sworn to uphold. Those found to have engaged in such conduct will be held accountable to the fullest extent."
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also expressed "total dismay" at the video, which appeared on YouTube, and said it was "absolutely inconsistent with the standards of behaviour that the vast majority of marines hold themselves to".
The video apparently showed four US marines in combat fatigues laughing as they relieved themselves over three bodies lying in the dust at their feet. NATO forces in Afghanistan fear that outrage over the desecration of Muslim bodies will incite more violence. Last night the investigators were reported to have identified the unit involved in the video as being from the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, which is based out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. An official said at least two of the four marines in the video had been identified.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, already under immense domestic pressure to distance himself from the US, said he was "deeply disturbed" by the footage.
"This act by American soldiers is simply inhuman and condemnable in the strongest possible terms. We expressly ask the US government to urgently investigate the video and apply the most severe punishment to anyone found guilty in this crime," he said. Mr Panetta personally telephoned the Afghan leader to promise a full investigation. Mr Karzai's comments were echoed by the Taliban, which described the incident as "yet another barbaric act by foreign forces".
However, a spokesman for the insurgency said the video was unlikely to derail back-channel negotiations between the Taliban and the US. The two sides are said to be trying to re-establish direct peace talks following the collapse of the most recent diplomatic effort last month.
The US Marine Corps did not question the authenticity of the video and said the investigation would be mounted by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, its internal law enforcement agency. No arrests have yet been made. (© Daily Telegraph, London)