US Defence Secretary condemns 'urinating marines'

 

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has condemned as "utterly deplorable" a video that purports to depict four US Marines urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters.

He said such behaviour is "entirely inappropriate for members of the United States military" and those responsible will be held accountable.

Panetta said he had ordered the Marine Corps and Marine Gen John Allen, the top commander of the Nato-led forces in Afghanistan, to investigate.

The Marine Corps said earlier it would investigate the YouTube video but had not yet verified its origin or authenticity. The case has been referred to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the US Navy's worldwide law enforcement arm.

The video, posted on the internet, shows men in Marine combat gear, standing in a semi-circle over three bodies.

It is not clear whether the dead were Taliban or civilians or someone else. The title on the posting called them Taliban insurgents but it was unclear who added that title, Marine Corps officials in Washington said.

The reaction from Afghanistan was angry.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the video as "completely inhumane". The Afghan Defence Ministry called it "shocking". And the Taliban issued a statement accusing US forces of committing numerous "indignities" against the Afghan people.

"First they killed the Afghans with mortars, and they then urinated on their bodies," Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said. "We strongly condemn this inhumane action by the wild American soldiers."

Panetta said the actions, if true, were inexcusable.

"I have seen the footage, and I find the behaviour depicted in it utterly deplorable. I condemn it in the strongest possible terms," Panetta's statement said. "Those found to have engaged in such conduct will be held accountable to the fullest extent."

The video came to light at a delicate time in relations among the United States, Afghanistan's elected government and the Taliban insurgency fighting for both territorial control and cultural and religious pre-eminence in Afghanistan.

The US is trying to foster peace talks between the Karzai government and the Pakistan-based Taliban high command, and has made unprecedented offers to build trust with the insurgents, including the planned opening of a Taliban political office to oversee talks.

One of the largest obstacles to peace discussions has been widespread Afghan contempt for US military tactics that many - both Taliban sympathisers and not - see as heavy-handed.

Opposition to the US and Nato military presence in Afghanistan usually centres on civilian casualties from military engagement, although the vast majority of those deaths are caused by the insurgents.

Although the video purports to show Taliban fighters, not civilians, it is likely to resonate with those opposed to the US presence and to peace with the US-backed Karzai government. In his statement, Karzai called on the US military to punish the Marines.

The Nato-led security force in Afghanistan released a statement saying: "This disrespectful act is inexplicable and not in keeping with the high moral standards we expect of coalition forces."

The actions "appear to have been conducted by a small group of US individuals, who apparently are no longer serving in Afghanistan", the International Security Assistance Force said. The statement did not identify the personnel or explain why the ISAF thought they had left the country.

A spokesman at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina would not confirm reports that the Marines were based there. "We have had elements of that unit that have deployed to Afghanistan and have returned. However, we have not yet confirmed if anyone in the video is from that unit, or whether they are attached to a unit from Lejeune," said Capt Scott Sasser.

Senator John McCain, a Navy veteran who fought and was held prisoner in the Vietnam war, said the incident "makes me so sad".

McCain, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, called the Marine Corps one of America's strongest institutions and said its image has apparently been tarnished by "a handful of obviously undisciplined people".

"There should be an investigation and these young people should be punished," he said.

Pentagon officials said the criminal investigation was likely to look into whether the Marines violated laws of war, which include prohibitions against photographing bodies and detainees and a range of other rules.

In an emailed statement, Taliban spokesman Mujahid said, "During these 10 years American soldiers have tortured our people in various ways, they have shown disrespect to the holy Koran and other holy books, they have burned our bodies, they have killed and tortured our women and children and ... have committed other hateful actions."

Mujahid urged the UN and other international groups to end such actions by US troops.

the Council on Islamic-American Relations, a prominent Muslim civil rights and advocacy group based in Washington, protested the video in a letter to Panetta.

"We condemn this apparent desecration of the dead as a violation of our nation's military regulations and of international laws of war prohibiting such disgusting and immoral group wrote.

"If verified as authentic, the video shows behaviour that is totally unbecoming of American military personnel and that could ultimately endanger other soldiers and civilians," the letter said.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people

Harry Potter actor suffered 'severe flu-like symptoms' on a flight from London to Orlando

Sport
Kim Sears is reported to have directed abuse at Berdych
tennis
News
news

Rap music mogul accused of running two men over in his truck

News
Gywneth Paltrow proposed that women seek out a special herbal steam-treatment service
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Toronto tops the charts across a range of indexes
news

World cities ranked in terms of safety, food security and 'liveability'

Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Arts and Entertainment
tv

First full-length look is finally here

Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
Tax now accounts for ‘nearly 80%’ of the price of a bottle of whisky
news

Arts and Entertainment
Peppa Pig wearing her golden boots
film

"Oink! Oink! Hee hee hee!" First interview with the big-screen star

Life and Style
tech

Biohacking group hopes technology will lead people to think about even more dystopian uses

Arts and Entertainment
film
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Film director Martin Scorsese
film
News
news

The party's potential nominations read like a high school race for student body president

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Regional Gas Installation Manager - South East England

£36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Regional Gas Installation Manager is r...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Service and Breakdown Engineer - South East

£29000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Service and Brea...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is a two form entry primary schoo...

Recruitment Genius: Engineering Manager - Alconbury

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for an Engineering M...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee