Marines 'urinated on Taliban bodies'
Washington - The US military is investigating an online video purportedly showing Marines urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, a spokesperson said on Wednesday, calling the behaviour "disgusting."
The video shows what appears to be four servicemen, dressed in US military uniform, relieving themselves onto three bloodied bodies on the ground, apparently aware that they are being filmed.
"Have a great day, buddy," one of them says.
The Pentagon has not yet verified the video, but spokesperson John Kirby told AFP: "Regardless of the circumstances or who is in the video, this is... egregious, disgusting behaviour, unacceptable for anyone in uniform."
"It turned my stomach," he added of the video, which was posted on the Live Leak website.
Elite sniper team
If authenticated, the images - which conjure up memories of the detainee abuse inflicted by American soldiers at Iraq's notorious Abu Ghraib prison - are sure to spark deep anger and resentment in the Muslim world.
A military official who asked not to be named said the helmet and weapon carried by one of the men seems to indicate the four could be members of an elite sniper team.
The official also said such conduct would be punishable under the US code of military justice.
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a prominent national Muslim civil rights and advocacy organisation, condemned the alleged desecration of corpses by US Marines.
"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," CAIR said in a statement.
"We trust that this disturbing incident will be promptly investigated in a transparent manner and that appropriate actions will be taken based on the results of that investigation," the statement said.
"Any guilty parties must be punished to the full extent allowed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice and by relevant American laws."
'Not consistent with our core values'
A statement issued by the Pentagon said: "Headquarters Marine Corps has recently been made aware of a video that portrays Marines urinating on what appear to be deceased members of the Taliban.
"While we have not yet verified the origin or authenticity of this video, the actions portrayed are not consistent with our core values and are not indicative of the character of the Marines in our Corps.
"This matter will be fully investigated."
Some 20 000 Marines are deployed in Afghanistan, mostly in Kandahar and Helmand provinces in the south of the war-ravaged country.
The US and Nato have some 130 000 troops fighting the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.
US and coalition partners in Afghanistan plan to hand over security for the whole of the country to Afghan forces by the end of 2014, allowing the withdrawal of combat forces.
In April 2004, the prison at Abu Ghraib shot to international headlines and became a potent negative symbol of the US occupation to many Iraqis after evidence emerged of detainee abuse by US soldiers at the facility.
Eventually, 11 soldiers were convicted in connection to the abuse, and received punishments ranging from an army discharge to 10 years in prison.