REPORTING FROM ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN, AND KABUL, AFGHANISTAN -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday condemned a video that appeared to show four U.S. Marines urinating on the dead bodies of three Taliban fighters and urged “the most severe punishment for anyone found guilty in this crime.”
A statement issued by Karzai’s office said the president’s administration was “deeply disturbed” by the video. “This act by American soldiers is simply inhuman and condemnable in the strongest possible terms.”
The video was posted on YouTube and on TMZ, a celebrity gossip site. In it, four men in Marine combat gear unzip their pants and urinate on the bodies. One of the men says, “Have a great day, buddy.”
U.S. officials have launched an investigation into the matter. American-led coalition forces in Afghanistan said in a statement that the soldiers in the video are probably no longer serving in the South Asian nation.
The coalition statement adds that “this behavior dishonors the sacrifices and core values of every service member representing the 50 nations of the coalition. ... Any individuals with confirmed involvement will be held fully accountable.”
Although the Afghan Taliban reacted angrily to news of the video, a Taliban spokesman said it wouldn’t necessarily derail the beginning stages of talks with the U.S. aimed at finding a peaceful resolution to the 10-year conflict. “This indicates [America’s] extreme cruelty,” said Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid in a written statement. “Our message is that this was barbaric action, and we strongly condemn it.”
The Taliban on Thursday said it was ready to begin talks with the U.S., though it stressed it would not stop fighting and would not recognize either Afghanistan’s constitution or Karzai’s administration, which insurgents regard as a puppet regime.
“We have increased our political efforts to come to a mutual understanding with the world in order to solve the current ongoing situation,” the Afghan Taliban said in a prepared statement. “But this understanding does not mean surrender from jihad, and neither is it connected to an acceptance of the constitution of the stooge Kabul administration.”
The video is reminiscent of a controversy involving U.S. soldiers who posed for grisly photos with three Afghan civilians they had killed in 2010 in the southern province of Kandahar. Five members of the platoon linked with the photos either pleaded guilty or were convicted of murdering the Afghan civilians and collecting body parts as war trophies.
Also Thursday, a suicide car bomber killed five people in southern Afghanistan's Kandahar province, including a provincial district chief. The official, Fazludin Agha, was on his way home in Panjwai district in a government convoy when the car bomber rammed into the convoy and detonated his explosives, said Zalmai Ayubi, spokesman for the Kandahar governor’s office. Agha’s two sons and his two bodyguards were also killed in the blast, Ayubi said.
Photo: Relatives mourn at the hospital where victims of a suicide attack Thursday were taken for treatment in Kandahar. Credit: Allauddin Khan / Associated Press