, WASHINGTON, Jan 13 – Two of the four US Marines seen in an online video urinating on the corpses of militants in Afghanistan have been questioned by investigators, an American military official said on Friday.
“They’ve been questioned” by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service but are “not in custody,” the official told AFP.
The official confirmed the Marines depicted in the graphic footage are from a sniper unit in the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines based at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, and that the two men questioned are both on active duty.
“Hopefully today we’ll have identified the other two” once they are located, apparently after having been transferred from Camp Lejeune, said the official, who asked not to be named so as not to interfere with the ongoing probe.
The 3rd Battalion 2nd Marines was deployed in southwestern Afghanistan’s Helmand province from March to September last year, and the video “potentially” was shot during that period, the official said.
The online video showed four US soldiers urinating on three bloodied corpses, and one of the men, apparently aware he was being filmed, saying: “Have a great day, buddy,” referring to one of the dead.
The footage has angered Afghan President Hamid Karzai and embarrassed the Pentagon, with US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemning the acts as deplorable and vowing that the culprits would be found and punished.
The soldiers in the video could face a court-martial for violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice as well as the Geneva Conventions, which provide that the remains of enemy fighters be treated with dignity.
Investigators will also be seeking to identify and question others who might have been involved with the graphic acts, including the person who filmed the scene, who was most likely a fellow service member, another US military official said.
He said military authorities will also seek to question the managers of the units involved, and that if command flaws are determined to have encouraged or led to the improper behaviour of the soldiers, then those commanders will be punished.