American soldiers accused of desecrating enemy bodies

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Afghanistan government and the U.S. Army have begun investigations into whether American soldiers burned the bodies of two suspected Taliban fighters and used the burned bodies to taunt enemy forces.

The video reportedly showing U.S. soldiers burning the bodies of suspected Taliban fighters outside the southern village of Gonbaz was shown on Australia's SBS television network. The video was taken by Stephen Dupont, who said the burnings happened October 1 while he was embedded with the Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade.

Dupont said the incendiary messages later broadcast by the U.S. Army psychological operations unit showed they were aware that the cremation would be seen as desecration.

In a televised interview, Dupont told the Australian news agency that: "They [soldiers] used that as a psychological warfare, I guess you'd call it. They used the fact that the Taliban were burned facing west [toward Mecca]. They deliberately wanted to incite that much anger from the Taliban so the Taliban could attack them. ... That's the only way they can find them."

The SBS report suggested the actions could violate the Geneva Conventions governing the treatment of enemy remains during wartime which state; "dead are honorably interred, if possible according to the rites of the religion to which they belonged." The Taliban government, that ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001, when U.S. led force invaded the country and ended their regime, did not recognize the Geneva Convention in their term of rule.

"We strongly condemn any disrespect to human bodies regardless of whether they are those of enemies or friends," said a Afghanistan spokesman Karim Rahimi.

"This alleged action is repugnant to our common values," U.S. Maj. Gen. Jason Kamiya said, "This command takes all allegations of misconduct or inappropriate behavior seriously and has directed an investigation into circumstances surrounding this allegation."