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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 November 2005, 15:03 GMT
No US charges over Afghan bodies
American soldiers in south Afghanistan (archive)
The US is wary of offending religious sensibilities in the region
US troops who burned the corpses of two suspected Taleban fighters killed in a gun battle in Afghanistan committed no crime, military investigators say.

The bodies were burned for reasons of hygiene, the investigation found.

Four soldiers still face disciplinary action - two for failing to show local understanding and two for using the cremation to taunt other fighters.

The inquiry began amid fears news of the act would antagonise Muslims, who regard cremation as sacrilege.


Video of the cremation shot by a journalist embedded with the US military was shown last month in Australia.

It shows the bodies being burnt on 1 October, in a location near the southern city of Kandahar, and also features insulting messages from soldiers which had been broadcast by loudspeaker to Taleban fighters in the area after the act.

However, the video has not been shown inside Afghanistan and there have been no reports of public protests.

Decomposing bodies

Speaking at a news conference in Kandahar, the US-led coalition's operational commander, Maj-Gen Jason Kamiya, said the soldiers involved had not been aware that what they were doing was wrong.

Afghanistan map

"Our investigation found there was no intent to desecrate the remains, but only to dispose of them for hygienic reasons," he was quoted by AP news agency as saying.

The temperature, he said, had been 33C and the bodies had begun to decompose.

However, two junior officers who had ordered the bodies to be burnt would be officially reprimanded for "poor judgement and lack of knowledge and respect of Afghan culture and customs".

Turning to the broadcasts, which had been directed at presumed survivors of the same gun battle thought to be sheltering in a village, Gen Kamiya said they had violated military policy.

Two non-commissioned officers would be reprimanded as a result.

Kandahar Governor Asadullah Khalid, also present at the news conference, said he had confidence in the US investigation.

'Lady boys'

The video was shot in the village of Gonbaz outside the southern city of Kandahar by Australian cameraman Stephen DuPont, who was embedded with a US unit, for SBS's Dateline programme.

It opens with what the programme describes as shots of an American PsyOps unit using loud pop music to try to flush out the Taleban - who banned music when they ruled the country.

Some footage shows two corpses laid out facing Mecca and then being burned in what the reporter, John Martinkus, describes as a "deliberate desecration of Muslim beliefs".

Islamic tradition states that bodies should be washed, prayed for, wrapped in white cloth and buried within 24 hours.

Later footage shows two US soldiers repeating messages broadcast by loudspeaker in which the Taleban are called "cowardly dogs" and "lady boys".

In May there were widespread demonstrations in Afghanistan resulting in the deaths of at least 15 people after Newsweek magazine reported that US forces had desecrated the Koran at the Guantanamo Bay military camp.

The magazine later printed a retraction, saying it could not prove the allegation.

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