Troops punished over Koran burning
The US military said today it was disciplining US troops over two incidents that provoked outrage in Afghanistan early this year, one involving a video depicting Marines urinating on corpses and another over burned copies of the Koran.
The investigation determined that six soldiers burned up to 100 Korans and other religious materials in Afghanistan during a February incident that led to deadly riots and strained relations between the two countries.
The military said the punishments were administrative, which could include actions such as a reprimand, reduction in rank or forfeiture of pay. Neither incident so far has resulted in criminal charges, however, something that may fail to satisfy Afghan demands for justice. The investigation also found no malicious intent to disrespect Islam by those involved.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai branded the Marine's actions in the video as "inhuman," and he initially called for a public trial for the soldiers over the Koran incident.
The Marine Corps announced three Marines had pleaded guilty to charges over the video, including one for "urinating on the body of a deceased Taliban soldier." Another wrongfully posed for a photo with human casualties and the third lied about the incident to investigators.
The identities of the Marines were not disclosed and disciplinary actions against other Marines would be announced at a later date, the Marine Corps said.
The video, which became public in January after the images were posted on the Internet, actually took place on or around July 27th 2011, during a counter-insurgency operation in Afghanistan's Helmand province, the Marines said, describing findings of the investigation.
One of the four Marines shown in the video can be heard saying, "Have a nice day, buddy," while another makes a lewd joke, as they urinated on three corpses.
Also today, the Army announced that six soldiers received administrative punishments over an incident in which copies of the Koran and other religious material were removed from a prison library and sent to an incinerator to be destroyed. Four of the individuals involved were officers and two of them were non-commissioned officers, a spokesman said.
The incident in February touched off several days of rioting and attacks on US troops after local workers found charred copies of the Koran among the trash at the incinerator at the Bagram base north of Kabul.
US officials at the time said some of the religious material had been removed from the prison library at Bagram because of concern that it was extremist in nature and was being used to pass messages among prisoners.
At least 30 people died in the violence that spread across the country after the incident. Shortly after, two American officers were shot dead in a secure area of the Afghan interior ministry, a crime that remains unsolved.
Reaction to the incident prompted President Barack Obama to write to Afghan President Hamid Karzai to apologize.
An investigation into the Koran burning concluded in June with recommendations that the troops involved receive administrative punishment, a US official said at the time. Details of that investigation were also expected to be released later today.