A still image taken January 11, 2012 from an undated YouTube video shows what is believed to be U.S. Marines urinating on the bodies of dead Taliban soldiers in Afghanistan. The U.S. Marine Corps said on Wednesday it would investigate a video showing what appear to be American forces in Afghanistan urinating on the bodies of dead Taliban fighters.
US military law and the Geneva Convention both prohibit the desecration of bodies. Photo: Reuters
AT LEAST two of the four US marines filmed urinating on the bodies of Taliban insurgents in a video posted on the internet this week have been identified by investigators and are expected to face criminal charges.
A Marine Corps spokesman confirmed the men belonged to a sniper unit from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, that served in Afghanistan for several months until September.
Their identities were being withheld as investigations continued into the incident, which has prompted outrage in the US and abroad and elicited a promise from US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta that those involved will be punished.
US military law and the Geneva Convention both prohibit the desecration of bodies.
In the 40-second video, which was posted on several websites including YouTube, the uniformed marines were seen urinating on three corpses, with one commenting: ''Have a great day, buddy.'' Another voice added: ''Golden, like a shower.'' Two of the men were not wearing their helmets, while one carried an M40 bolt-action rifle used by Marine Corps snipers.
''I have seen the footage and I find the behaviour depicted in it utterly deplorable,'' Mr Panetta said.
The Marine Corps and the International Security Assistance Force commander, General John Allen, are investigating the incident.
''This conduct is entirely inappropriate for members of the United States military and does not reflect the standards of values our armed forces are sworn to uphold,'' Mr Panetta added. ''Those found to have engaged in such conduct will be held accountable to the fullest extent.''
Two of the four marines in the video have reportedly left the sniper unit to which they were attached but all four men remain on active duty.
The unit returned to the US late last year after seven months in Helmand province, where they were involved in heavy fighting in and around the Musa Qala district. The unit of about 1000 marines lost seven members on the assignment.
The incident, which echoes previous abuse by US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, comes as Washington tries to breathe life into talks with the Taliban that could pave the way for a peace settlement. Any deal would coincide with the draw-down of US troops, with the Obama administration setting December 2014 as the deadline for a handover to Afghan forces.
However, a recent US intelligence report leaked to the media offered a bleak assessment of the war, while casting doubt on the sincerity of the Taliban leadership.
New talks are awaiting the backing of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who expressed horror at the video.
''This act by American soldiers is simply inhuman and condemnable in the strongest possible terms,'' he said.
A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, called the video ''inhuman and despicable''.
Other Taliban sources said they did not believe it would damage the prospect for renewed peace talks.