U.S. investigators believe they have identified and questioned at least two of the four Marines seen on video urinating on the bodies of dead Taliban fighters.
Senior Marine officials with knowledge of the investigation say the four were members of a 1,000-man battalion from Camp LeJeune, North Carolina. The battalion recently completed a combat tour in the southern Afghan province of Helmand, where it lost seven of its members during clashes with the Taliban.
The officials also say the four men appear to be part of the battalion's sniper team, based on their gear and weapons that they are carrying in the video. Top U.S. officials, including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have condemned the video, Panetta calling it "utterly deplorable."
On January 13, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan expressed his outrage over the video. General John Allen, currently traveling in the United States, said such acts must be condemned in the "strongest manner possible." He also said those responsible would be held accountable.
Several officials say that if the incident is confirmed, the Marines involved could be charged with war crimes for not treating the bodies of those killed in war honorably. The video appears to show Marines in combat uniforms urinating on three corpses. In the footage, one person suspected of committing the act says "have a nice day," referring to one of the dead.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta spoke by phone on January 12 with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and affirmed there will be a serious probe into the incident. Karzai said his government is "deeply disturbed" by the video, calling the act "simply inhuman."
A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahed, said while the video is "shocking," he did not think it would derail peace talks with the United States. The commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps General James Amos said he has requested the Marines and U.S. Navy conduct separate investigations into the video. He said the Marine Corps remains committed to upholding the Geneva Convention, the laws of war and its own core values.
Callers to a January 12 National Public Radio show, among whom were those identifying themselves as current serving or veteran Marines, expressed disgust. One caller said that he believed he recognized two of the Marines in the video.
From VOA and agency reports.