Afghan investigators probe US troops allegedly burning Taliban bodies

Govt. spokesman: The alleged desecration could spark anti-American demonstrations.

afghanistan prayers 88 (photo credit: )
afghanistan prayers 88
(photo credit: )
A team of top Afghan officials were in the country's south Sunday to investigate allegations that US soldiers burned the remains of Taliban fighters they had killed and then used the scene for propaganda purposes, a government spokesman said Sunday. The four investigators have been ordered by President Hamid Karzai to work "urgently" amid warnings that the alleged desecration could spark anti-American demonstrations, Defense Ministry spokesman Zahir Azimi said. He said it wasn't clear how long the probe would take, but he added, "We are waiting for the results and they could come any time." Asked at a press conference whether the government would push for any US soldiers implicated in the alleged crime to be prosecuted in Afghanistan, Azimi said authorities would leave it to US military courts to bring them to justice. The development comes after an American news magazine, Time, reported that the US troops burned the bodies of the two Taliban because local villagers had declined to remove them and "they were bloated and they stank," according to an unnamed soldier who was quoted. US Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has also called for a separate US military investigation to be expedited. In his first public comments about the matter, Rumsfeld told reporters that he is worried by publicity about the allegations, whatever their merit. "The reality is that charges of that type are harmful," he said. "They don't represent the overwhelmingly positive behavior of the men and women in uniform who do such a wonderful job. It's always disappointing when there are charges like that. It's particularly disappointing when they're true. That needs to be determined, but one hates to see the adverse effect of it, if it is true. The defense secretary cited as an example deadly riots in Afghanistan in May that were sparked by a report - since retracted - over the alleged mishandling of the Quran by US military personnel at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention center for suspected terrorists. Australia's SBS television network this week broadcast a video purportedly showing American soldiers burning the bodies of two suspected Taliban fighters in hills outside southern Gonbaz village, in a region plagued by Taliban activity. The network said the video was taken by a freelance journalist, Stephen Dupont. He told AP it was taken Oct. 1 while he was embedded with the Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade.