Authorities in Afghanistan ordered an investigation on Thursday after a video circulated online that appeared to show a group of Afghan troops desecrating the bodies of Taliban fighters.
The two-minute clip, which quickly went viral on social media, surfaced ahead of expected peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban following Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s announcement to release the final batch of Taliban prisoners agreed as part of a US-Taliban deal.
The video, which AFP could not immediately verify, shows a man in military uniform using an axe to smash the heads and faces of what appeared to be two dead Taliban fighters.
Other bodies are seen nearby, and the sound of laughter can be heard as a group of men in uniform watch.
The Taliban said the video was filmed in Zabul province in the country’s south and that government forces had treated the dead fighters “barbarically”.
The ministry of defence said it had ordered a probe into the video showing “what appears to be some security forces members acting inappropriately with a number of dead bodies”.
“If verified that the violators are members of the ANA (Afghan National Army), they will be dealt with,” the ministry said in a statement.
The desecration of corpses in Afghanistan’s war has been a recurrent issue, with several videos emerging over the past 20 years, including one in 2011 showing a group of US marines urinating on three blood-soaked bodies.
That video sparked outrage around the world prompting an investigation and criminal charges.
The latest clip comes as Kabul is set to release about 400 Taliban prisoners ahead of peace talks with the armed group, which has fought US-led forces since it was removed from power in 2001.
Kabul has already freed about 4,500 Taliban prisoners, while the armed group have released about 1,000 Afghan security personnel as part of the February deal signed between the US and the Taliban in the Qatari capital, Doha.
The release of the Taliban prisoners has faced opposition in the country as many of the inmates were involved in brutal attacks targeting both Afghans and foreigners.
President Ghani on Sunday agreed to release 400 Taliban prisoners after an Afghan grand assembly, known as the Loya Jirga, passed a resolution to approve the move.
The intra-Afghan talks, which were initially slated to be held in March, were delayed as the Afghan government was reluctant to release all the Taliban prisoners.
President Donald Trump, up for re-election in November, has said repeatedly that he wants to end America’s longest war, which began nearly 20 years ago.