US: Afghan body burning not criminal

The US military has denied its troops committed any criminal wrongdoing in the burning of two Taliban rebels' bodies, saying they did so for hygienic reasons, but added that four soldiers faced disciplinary action over the incident.

    The military said soldiers didn't know their actions were wrong

    The military held a news conference on Saturday to release the

    findings of an inquiry into TV footage last month that

    showed US soldiers using the cremation to taunt other insurgents -

    an act that sparked outrage in

    Afghanistan.

    Islam forbids cremation, and the video images

    were compared to photographs of US troops abusing

    prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.

    The US-led coalition's operational commander, Major-General

    Jason Kamiya, said two junior officers who ordered the burning of the

    bodies would be officially reprimanded for

    showing a lack of cultural and religious understanding; but he added

    the men were unaware that what they were doing was

    wrong.

    "Our investigation found there was no intent to desecrate

    the remains, but only to dispose of them for hygienic

    reasons"

    Major-General Jason Kamiya, US-led coalition's commander

    Kamiya also said two non-commissioned officers would be

    reprimanded for using loudspeakers to taunt Taliban insurgents

    who were believed to be lingering in a nearby village

    after a clash with the US troops.

    The two men would also face

    non-judicial punishments, which could include a loss of pay

    or demotion in rank.

    No desecration intent

    "Our investigation found there was no intent to desecrate

    the remains, but only to dispose of them for hygienic

    reasons," Kamiya said.

    He added that the broadcasts, while "designed to incite

    fleeing Taliban to fight", violated military policy.

    The video footage threatens to undermine public support

    for the US military's war against a stubborn insurgency

    four years after US-led forces ousted the Taliban government.

    Hours after it was broadcast in Australia last month,

    American commanders scrambled to contain the public

    relations fallout, promising a full investigation and

    vowing that anyone found guilty would be punished to the

    full extent of military law.

    Saturday's news conference was held in the former Taliban

    stronghold of Kandahar, the closest city to where the

    alleged desecration occurred on 1 October.

    It was attended by

    Kandahar Governor Asadullah Khalid, who said afterwards: "We

    have confidence in this investigation."

    Health concern

    The TV footage showed five soldiers in light-coloured

    military fatigues, which did not have any distinguishing

    marks, standing near a bonfire in which two bodies were

    laid side by side.

    Kamiya said the temperature at the time was 33C

    and that the bodies had lain exposed on the ground for 24

    hours and had begun to rapidly decompose.

    "This posed an increasing health concern for our

    soldiers," Kamiya said. "The criminal investigation

    proved there was no violation of the rules of war."

    Afghan President Hamid Karzai
    ordered his own inquiry

    The Geneva Convention forbids the burning of combatants

    except for hygienic purposes.

    The bodies were found atop a hill following a firefight,

    and Kamiya said soldiers, intending to stay on the hill for

    two or three days for strategic reasons, thought other

    Taliban had fled into the village below.

    Afghan President Hamid Karzai ordered his own inquiry into

    the incident. That investigation has been completed, but

    officials say it is not known when its findings will be

    released.

    Swedish soldier dies

    A Swedish soldier died from

    injuries suffered in a roadside bomb blast on Friday,

    and suspected Taliban insurgents burned down a district

    police headquarters and abducted four officers in a

    pre-dawn attack on Saturday.

    One of four Swedish soldiers who were wounded on Friday when a bomb

    tore through a vehicle carrying peacekeepers in the

    northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif later died, the Swedish

    military and the Nato-led International Security Assistance

    Force said.

    Another soldier was in "very serious" condition, while

    the other two suffered minor injuries, the Swedish Armed

    Forces said in a statement. Two civilians were injured in

    the attack as well, officials in Afghanistan said.

    Police attacked

    Before sunrise on Saturday, insurgents attacked a district

    police office in Logar province near the capital, burning

    it down and abducting four officers, provincial deputy

    police chief Abdul Rasool said. 

    "We suspect that they wanted to explode these cars in the

    city

    "


    Mohammed Zahir Azimi, Afghan
    Defence Ministry spokesman

    The attack sparked a

    gun battle, but police suffered no casualties and it was

    unknown whether any fighters were wounded or killed,

    Rasool said.

    He said the assailants fled after the authorities dispatched 

    soldiers to the area, and that security forces were

    searching for the insurgents and the missing policemen.

    Also on Saturday, the authorities in Kabul seized two

    explosive-laden vehicles and arrested six Afghan men on

    suspicion of planning attacks, Defence Ministry spokesman

    General Mohammed Zahir Azimi said in a statement.

    "We suspect that they wanted to explode these cars in the

    city," he said without giving any further details.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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