Afghans outraged over alleged desecration
Updated: 2005-10-21 08:59
Islamic clerics expressed outrage Thursday at television footage that
purportedly shows U.S. soldiers burning the bodies of two dead Taliban fighters
to taunt other militants and warned of a possible violent anti-American
President Hamid Karzai condemned the alleged desecration and ordered an
inquiry. The operational commander of the U.S. military in Afghanistan, which
launched its own criminal probe, said the alleged act, if true, was "repugnant."
Worried about the potential for anti-American feelings over the incident, the
State Department said it instructed U.S. embassies around the globe to tell
local governments that the reported abuse did not reflect American values.
Cremating bodies is banned under Islam, and one Muslim leader in Afghanistan
compared the video to photographs of U.S. troops abusing prisoners at Iraq's Abu
"Abu Ghraib ruined the reputation of the Americans in Iraq and to me this is
even worse," said Faiz Mohammed, a top cleric in northern Kunduz province. "This
is against Islam. Afghans will be shocked by this news. It is so humiliating.
There will be very, very dangerous consequences from this."
Anger also was evident in
A US soldier watches the sunset over the
desert in Afghanistan while on patrol. The United States expressed concern
about film of US soldiers burning the bodies of two suspected Taliban
militants which comes as a new blow to the image of the US
"If they continue to carry out such actions against us, our people will
change their policy and react with the same policy against them," said
Mehrajuddin, a resident of Kabul, who like many Afghans uses only one name.
Another man in the capital, Zahidullah, said the reported abuse was like
atrocities committed by Soviet troops, who were driven out of Afghanistan in
1989 after a decade of occupation. He warned that the same could happen to
"Their future will be like the Russians," Zahidullah said.
In Washington, the U.S. government also condemned the alleged incident.
The allegation was "very serious" and "very troubling," State Department
spokesman Sean McCormack said. His comment came after the department said U.S.
embassies had been told to inform foreigners that abuse of remains "is not
reflective of our values."
The move suggested U.S. worries about an anti-American uproar like Afghan
riots in May that erupted after Newsweek said U.S. soldiers at the Guantanamo
Bay detention facility desecrated Islam's holy book, the Quran. Newsweek later
retracted the story.
The alleged body burning comes as the U.S. military is struggling to bolster
its image in Afghanistan amid charges by Karzai of heavy-handed tactics in
fighting the Taliban.
Australia's SBS television network broadcast the video purportedly showing
soldiers burning the bodies of two suspected Taliban fighters in hills outside
Gonbaz village in the southern Shah Wali Kot district ¡ª an area plagued by
Taliban activity and considered by the local security forces as too dangerous to
venture into unless accompanied by U.S. troops.
The network said the video was taken by a freelance journalist, Stephen
Dupont. Dupont, who told The Associated Press that he was embedded with the
Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade, said the burnings happened Oct. 1.
He told SBS that soldiers in a U.S. Army psychological operations unit later
broadcast taunting messages targeting the village, which was believed to be
harboring Taliban fighters.
"They deliberately wanted to incite that much anger from the Taliban so the
Taliban could attack them. ... That's the only way they can find them," Dupont
The video did not show those messages being broadcast, although it showed
some military vehicles fitted with speakers and playing loud music.
According to a transcript released by SBS, the messages called the Taliban
"You are too scared to come down and retrieve their bodies," said one
message, according to the transcript.
Dupont told the AP the messages were broadcast in the local dialect but were
translated into English for him by members of the Army unit. He declined to
provide further information.
The U.S. military said the Army Criminal Investigation Command was looking
into the matter.
"This alleged action is repugnant to our common values," Maj. Gen. Jason
Kamiya said from the U.S. base at Bagram. "This command takes all allegations of
misconduct or inappropriate behavior seriously and has directed an investigation
into circumstances surrounding this allegation."
A U.S. military spokeswoman, Sgt. Marina Evans, said investigators would
check whether the purported act violated the Geneva Convention, which says the
dead must be "honorably interred, if possible according to the rites of the
religion to which they belonged."
The Afghan Defense Ministry launched its own investigation, Karzai's
spokesman, Karim Rahimi, said.
"We strongly condemn any disrespect to human bodies regardless of whether
they are those of enemies or friends," he told the AP.