U.S. military disciplines 9 over Quran burning, urinating on Afghan corpses

WASHINGTON, D.C. (BNO NEWS) -- The U.S. military has disciplined three Marines for urinating on the bodies of Taliban fighters and six soldiers for burning Qurans at an airbase in Afghanistan, officials said on Monday. The second incident triggered violent protests in which dozens of people were killed.

The first incident took place on July 27, 2011, but only became public in January when a 34-second video was uploaded to the video-sharing website YouTube. The clip shows four U.S. Marines, uniformed and equipped with combat gear, urinating on the bodies of three people, believed to be dead Taliban fighters.

Three of the Marines have pleaded guilty in an agreement in which they will receive nonjudicial punishment, which may include reduction in rank, restriction to a military base, extra duties, forfeiture of pay, a reprimand, or a combination of these measures. The administrative punishment will become part of the Marine's permanent record, potentially affecting re-enlistment eligibility and promotion.

The three noncommissioned officers were all members of the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines or attached units, but their names will not be released. The Marine Corps Combat Development Command said the July 2011 incident took place during a counterinsurgency operation in southern Helmand province, and disciplinary actions against other Marines are to be announced later.

One of the noncommissioned officers pled guilty to urinating on a deceased Taliban soldier and to violating a lawful general order by "wrongfully posing for an unofficial photograph with human casualties." Another noncommissioned officer pled guilty to wrongfully posing for an unofficial photograph with human casualties and wrongfully video recording an action that was "prejudicial to good order and discipline."

The third Marine is a staff noncommissioned officer who was not directly involved in the incident, Marine Corps Combat Development Command said. He pled guilty to violating a lawful general order by failing to report the mistreatment of human casualties by other Marines and to making a false statement to investigators.

In a separate incident, six U.S. soldiers have also been given nonjudicial punishment for burning up to 100 Qurans and other religious texts at the Bagram Airbase in northeastern Afghanistan. The initial news reports triggered a series of violent protests across the country, leaving dozens of people killed. At least six American soldiers were also killed in attacks which the Taliban said were carried out in retaliation.

But an investigation by U.S. Central Command has found there was no malicious intent to disrespect the Quran or defame the faith of Islam, Army Brig. Gen. Bryan G. Watson said in his report. He pointed out that leaders at the facility had failed to give clear guidance and mid-level and junior leaders did not address problems.

The report said U.S. service members at the detention facility in Parwan were looking through books in the library to stop messages from being transmitted among detainees. A translator deemed a number of books to be extremist, and this apparently included the Quran and other religious texts.

As a result, the books were taken from the library and burned at the Bagram Airfield incinerator, despite the service members being warned by Afghan soldiers who attempted to explain the gravity of the situation. "That U.S. service members did not heed the warnings of their partners is, perhaps, my biggest concern," Watson said.

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