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U.S. Troops Punished For Koran Burning, Urination Video

August 28, 2012


American military authorities have disciplined nine service members over two separate incidents -- the burning of copies of the Koran and a video in which the bodies of dead Taliban fighters were urinated on -- that provoked outrage in Afghanistan earlier this year.

The soldiers will not face criminal prosecution over the incidents.

Military officials said four Army officers and two enlisted soldiers face "administrative punishments" for sending up to 100 copies of the Koran and other religious texts from a detention center library to a burn pit at Bagram air base, north of Kabul.

Punishments could include measures like reduction of rank, extra duty, or forfeiture of pay. They also could stall future advancement and end military careers.

An Army investigation that was made public on August 27 found that the soldiers did not act out of “malicious intent” to disrespect Islam, but investigators concluded that the soldiers did not follow proper procedures, were ignorant of the importance of the Koran to Afghans, and got no clear guidance from their leaders.

The investigation's findings came on the same day the Marine Corps announced its punishment for three servicemen who took part in a video showing Marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters.

The Marine Corps said the three pleaded guilty: one to "urinating on the body of a deceased Taliban soldier," another to posing for a photo with human casualties, and a third for lying to investigators.

It said it would provide details of disciplinary actions against them at a later date.

In the video, which became public in January when it was posted on video-sharing websites, someone can be heard saying: "Have a good day, buddy."

The actions in the video took place during a counterinsurgency operation in the district of Musa Qala in the southwestern province of Helmand in July 2011.

Reports said the Marine Corps did not release the results of its investigation into the incident because there were continuing inquiries about the involvement of higher-ranking officers in the unit.

It was unclear how the punishments will be viewed in Afghanistan, where at least 30 people died in rioting and two American officers were shot dead following the Koran-burning incident, which compelled President Hamid Karzai to call for a public trial of the soldiers involved.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, and “The New York Times"


Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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