WASHINGTON - Six U.S. Army soldiers and three Marines escaped criminal charges but received administrative punishments for mistakenly burning Qurans and urinating on the corpses of Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, U.S. military officials said Monday.
The two incidents, revealed earlier this year, hurt relations with Afghans. U.S. military leaders widely condemned the incidents. The Quran burning triggered riots and retribution killings, including two U.S. troops who were shot by an Afghan soldier and two U.S. military advisers who were gunned down at their desks at the Interior Ministry.
The soldiers were disciplined for the burning of Qurans earlier this year at a U.S. base in Afghanistan, and the Marines were punished for their participation in a video that showed them urinating on Taliban corpses.
Discipline against a Navy sailor in the Quran burnings was dismissed, and the Marine Corps said it will announce discipline against additional Marines in the urination case at a later date.
The exact punishments were not disclosed Monday, and it was not clear whether the lack of criminal charges would trigger any protests in Afghanistan. Administrative punishments could include demotions, extra duty, forfeiture of pay or a letter in their file. They could also stall any future advancement and end their military careers.
Aimal Faizi, a spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai, said Karzai's office would review the decisions and wait until Tuesday to respond. The news on the punishments came late at night in Afghanistan.
The Qurans and other Islamic books were taken from the Parwan Detention Facility, and officials believed that extremists being detained there were using the texts to exchange messages. The religious books and other materials were later thrown into a fire pit used to burn garbage at Bagram Air Field, a major U.S. base north of Kabul.
A report on the investigation into the Quran burning in February was expected to be released Monday. But officials have previously described the incident as not intentional and as a mistake compounded by some bad decisions.
U.S. officials have said that the holy books were pulled out by Afghan workers before they were destroyed. President Barack Obama apologized to Karzai for the incident.
Afghan officials have claimed the burning was intentional, and it reinforced perceptions in the country that Americans are insensitive to the Afghans' religion and culture.
The urination video, which came to light in January and appeared on YouTube, showed four Marines in full combat gear urinating on the bodies of three dead men. On Monday, the Marine Corps revealed that there were also photographs taken at the time.
In the video, one Marine looks down at the bodies and says, "Have a good day, buddy."
The unit involved fought in the southern Afghan province of Helmand for seven months before returning to its home base in North Carolina last September.
The Marine Corps, in a release Monday, said one Marine pleaded guilty to urinating on the Taliban soldiers and posing for a photograph. Another Marine pleaded guilty to wrongfully videotaping the incident and posing for a photograph, and a third pleaded guilty to failing to report the mistreatment of human casualties and lying about it.
Associated Press writer Heidi Vogt contributed to this report from Kabul, Afghanistan.