Though experts are warning it will inflame anti-American sentiment in Afghanistan and hurt efforts to start peace talks with the Taliban, a video that appears to show four U.S. Marines urinating on the corpses of three Afghan men will not affect efforts to begin such negotiations, a Taliban spokesman tells Reuters.
"This is not the first time we see such brutality," the spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said.
As we reported Wednesday, the Marine Corps is investigating the video and has strongly condemned what it appears to show. (The video is too graphic for us to post. It is easy to find, however, including on TMZ.com.)
The video's authenticity and any details about exactly where and when the incident occurred have not yet been verified. It first appeared on YouTube and some newssites yesterday afternoon. The three Afghan men were Taliban fighters, according to information posted with the video by the unknown person who put it on YouTube. During the approximately 40-second long clip, the men who appear to be Marines are also heard joking.
According to The Associated Press, "the case is being referred to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the Navy's worldwide law enforcement organization, said NCIS spokesman Ed Buice."
Meanwhile, even as the Taliban spokesman was telling Reuters that the video won't affect efforts to start peace talks, The Associated Press was also reporting that "the insurgents will in the meantime continue their armed struggle, the group said Thursday." The AP adds that:
"The militant movement's emailed statement suggests that efforts to bring Afghan factions to the table are gathering momentum, but also highlights some of the roadblocks on the way to any settlement — in particular, the Taliban's insistence that the government of President Hamid Karzai is an illegitimate 'stooge' of the West.
"Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the militants had been fighting for the past 15 years to establish an Islamic government in Afghanistan 'in accordance with the request of its people.' "
Update at 3:30 p.m. ET. Two Marines Identified, CNN Reports:
"Two of the four Marines shown in a video urinating on dead bodies sprawled out on the ground have been identified by the Marine Corps, a Marine Corps official told CNN Thursday. The names are not being made public, said the official, who did not want to be identified because the investigation is ongoing."
Update at 11:15 a.m. ET. More On The Authenticity:
The Pentagon is now using phrasing that clearly identifies the men as "a small group of Marines." And it adds that "the video shows four Marines apparently urinating over three enemy corpses in Afghanistan."
Update at 10:20 a.m. ET: Reuters just moved an alert stating that the Pentagon says there is no indication the video "is not authentic."
And Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has released a statement "calling the behavior depicted in it utterly deplorable and ordering that it be investigated," the Pentagon says. Panetta also said "those found to have engaged in such conduct will be held accountable to the fullest extent," the AP reports.
He has also called Afghan President Hamid Karzai "to express his view that the conduct in the video is utterly deplorable and unacceptable."