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US troops burned bodies because 'they stank'
Updated: 2005-10-22 10:36

US soldiers burned the bodies of two Taliban fighters in Afghanistan because villagers had not claimed them a day after they were killed and the bodies "were bloated and they stank," a US magazine reported, citing soldiers who were present at the incident.

Australian television reported on Wednesday that soldiers had burned the bodies of two suspected Taliban militants and afterwards used the incident to insult villagers and try to provoke them into attacking US-led coalition troops.

The incident has prompted a US military investigation into the alleged desecration of the corpses, which is in violation of the Geneva Convention on human rights.

It also further clouds the United States's reputation, already tarnished by the sexual humiliation of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and allegations of mistreatment of "war on terror" inmates at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

According to the article published on Time magazine's website, a US army platoon was sharing a rocky hilltop above Gonbaz village in southern Afghanistan with the bodies of the two fighters.

"The Taliban men had been killed in a firefight 24 hours earlier and in the 90 degree (Fahrenheit, 32 degrees Celsius) heat, their bodies had become an unbearable presence," Time reported, citing soldiers who were present.

Earlier, Lieutenant Eric Nelson, the leader of B Company, I-508 platoon had sent word down to Gonbaz asking the villagers to pick up the bodies and bury them according to Muslim ritual.

But the villagers refused -- probably because the dead fighters were not locals but Pakistanis, said one US Army officer, the magazine said.

The magazine said it was then that Nelson took a decision that could jeopardize his career.

"We decided to burn the bodies ... because they were bloated and they stank," Time reported, citing a soldier.

The incident, captured on film by Australian photojournalist Stephen Dupont and aired on Australian public broadcasting channel SBS, unleashed world outrage.

Islamic tradition requires the bodies of Muslims to be washed, prayed over, wrapped in white cloth and buried, if possible, within a day.

Under the Geneva Convention, the disposal of war dead "should be honorable, and, if possible, according to the rites of the religion to which the deceased belonged."

Time noted that one US officer in Kandahar had "pointed out that the Taliban and Al-Qaeda never show any qualms about defiling the bodies of dead Afghan or American soldiers."

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