US Military Admits It Burned Bodies

    Saturday 26 November 2005

    Kandahar, Afghanistan - The U.S. military admitted on Saturday that its soldiers in Afghanistan had burned the bodies of two dead Taliban guerrillas and taunted insurgents about it, but had not meant it as a desecration.

    The U.S. military said an investigation into the incident concluded the soldiers had burned the bodies for "hygienic reasons" and said it would reprimand two non-commissioned officers for calling out taunts about it over a loudspeaker.

    "Our investigation found there was no intent to desecrate the remains, but only to dispose them for hygienic reasons," U.S.-led forces operational commander, Major General Jason Kamiya said.

    The investigation stems from footage shown on Australian television in a report which says the pictures show U.S. soldiers watching as flames lick two charred corpses in the hills above the village of Gondaz north of Kandahar.

    It also shows two U.S. soldiers reading messages they said had been broadcast over loudspeakers as propaganda.

    "You allowed your fighters to be laid down facing west and burned. You are too scared to retrieve their bodies. This just proves you are the lady boys we always believed you to be," read one soldier identified as psyops specialist Sgt. Jim Baker.

    The U.S. military said the soldiers implicated in the burning incident, would face disciplinary action and that the two junior officers who ordered the burning would be reprimanded for showing a lack of cultural and religious understanding.

    The incident has caused anger among Afghans already upset with U.S.-led forces over accusations of mistreating militant prisoners and using heavy handed tactics to hunt down the Taliban and members of al Qaeda believed to be hiding there.

    Kandahar is a former bastion of the Taliban and has been a focus of their growing insurgency since U.S.-led troops toppled the Islamic group's government in 2001.

    The U.S. military leads some 20,000 troops, most of them Americans in Afghanistan, in the hunt for the Taliban and their Islamic allies such as Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.

    This latest incident comes amid rising violence in which more than 1,100 people, most of them militants, but also nearly 60 U.S. soldiers have died in the Taliban-led insurgency this year in the country, the bloodiest since U.S.-led forces overthrew Taliban's government in 2001.