Feared anti-US protests over a video showing US Marines urinating on the corpses of Afghan insurgents failed to erupt after prayers yesterday in the Afghan capital, but anger ran deep on the streets.
“This is an absolutely savage act and condemnable in any religion,” said Waheedullah, 20, a road construction worker, as he left a mosque in Kabul.
“First they kill Afghans in their homeland and then they urinate on them. It is not acceptable — we should do it to them,” he said.
The online video showed four US soldiers urinating on three bloodied corpses.
The images conjured up previous abuses committed by US troops during the decade-long war and top US officials scrambled to condemn the soldiers.
US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said the behavior in the video was “utterly deplorable,” US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke of her “total dismay” and both vowed that the culprits would be found and punished.
Panetta said the incident could endanger peace talks.
“The danger is that this kind of video can be misused in many ways to undermine what we are trying to do in Afghanistan and the possibility of reconciliation,’’ Panetta said at Fort Bliss, Texas.
He said it is important for the US to move quickly to “send a clear signal to the world that the US will not tolerate this kind of behavior and that is not what the US is all about.”
US officials said a military criminal investigation was being led by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the law enforcement arm of the US Navy. The US Marines Coprs would do their own internal investigation.
In Afghanistan, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said the government was “deeply disturbed” at the desecration, which he described as “simply inhuman and condemnable in the strongest possible terms.”
However, the mullah at Kabul’s biggest mosque did not mention the incident in his sermon yesterday and worshippers dispersed peacefully.
“I believe there has been kind of a deliberate effort by people inside the government to cover up the issue,” said Mati Kharoti, an Afghan analyst and commentator.
“But this doesn’t mean that nothing will happen. It takes time for people to become aware of the news, thus I believe there is a good possibility we will witness angry reactions in the coming days,” he added.
A Taliban spokesman condemned the behavior of the soldiers as “barbaric,” but said it would not derail tentative moves towards peace talks between the insurgents and the US.
The video has been broadcast regularly by major Afghan TV channel Tolo News, but many of the more conservative Afghans living outside the major cities do not see television.
A senior US military official said the US Marines believed they had identified the unit at the center of the allegations.
CNN quoted an unnamed US Marine official as saying the troops in the inflammatory video were from the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
The unit deployed to Afghanistan, mainly in the southern province of Helmand, early last year and returned in September or October, CNN reported.