U.S. Soldiers Charged in Afghan Case

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Associated Press
Monday, October 31, 2005

KABUL, Afghanistan, Oct. 30 -- Two U.S. soldiers have been charged with assault for allegedly punching two detainees in the chest, shoulders and stomach at a military base in Afghanistan, the military said Sunday.

The announcement came 10 days after the military launched an investigation into television footage purportedly showing a group of U.S. soldiers burning the bodies of two dead Taliban fighters.

The charges against the two soldiers include conspiracy to maltreat, assault and dereliction of duty. The allegations, if substantiated, could lead to disciplinary action, the military said, adding that neither detainee required medical attention.

The military did not say when the soldiers were charged.

Lt. Col. Jerry O'Hara, a military spokesman, said the two soldiers were still in Afghanistan "performing their primary duties, but they have nothing to do with detained individuals."

The alleged assault occurred at a base in southern Uruzgan province in early July, O'Hara said.

He said one of the detainees has since been released and the other is being held at Bagram, the U.S. military headquarters in Afghanistan, about 35 miles north of Kabul, the capital.

O'Hara said military regulations prevented him from identifying the two detainees or elaborating on why they were detained.

Attempts to reach Afghan government officials Sunday for comment were not successful.

The alleged burning of the bodies of two Taliban fighters, which occurred Oct. 1, was condemned by President Hamid Karzai. The government ordered an independent inquiry and called for the perpetrators to be severely punished if found guilty.

Cremation of corpses is banned in Islam. Some Muslim clerics warned of a possible violent anti-American backlash after news of the alleged desecration broke, but no demonstrations have occurred.

The Taliban, a radical Islamic militia, ruled most of Afghanistan before the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

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