U.S. military officials said Friday they have questioned four Marines who were videotaped while urinating on Afghan corpses but that a criminal investigation was still at an early stage.
Maryann B. Cummings, a spokeswoman for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, said the Marines are in the United States. They have not been arrested, and authorities have not decided whether to press charges.
Cummings did not identify the Marines depicted in the short video, which shows them laughing as they urinate on three male bodies lined up on the ground next to a toppled wheelbarrow. A video caption refers to the corpses as “dead Talibans,” but it was unclear whether they were civilians or fighters killed after a battle.
In a statement, Cummings said investigators are “still tracking down information on the individual(s) who created and posted the video as well as initiating computer forensic techniques on the video itself.”
The caption asserts that the Marines are part of a scout sniper team with the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, an infantry unit from Camp Lejeune, N.C. Marines from the unit were deployed to Afghanistan’s Helmand province last year and returned to the United States in September.
The decision on whether to discipline the Marines will rest with Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the head of the Marine Corps Forces Central Command, who was appointed to review the case by Gen. James F. Amos, the Marine Corps commandant.
U.S. military law and the Geneva Conventions prohibit desecration, mishandling or exploitation of bodies of people killed in war.