WASHINGTON – The Marine Corps is investigating other possible misconduct by members of a battalion who drew worldwide attention when a video surfaced purporting to show them urinating on Afghan corpses, officials said Thursday.
In disclosing that a follow-up probe is under way, Marine spokesman Col. Sean D. Gibson said he could not provide details of the possible misbehavior or say what prompted the decision to widen the probe. He said the follow-up began May 15 and is to be completed by mid-June. It is headed by a Marine colonel.
"There are indications of other possible misconduct involving the unit depicted in the video that requires another investigation," Gibson said.
The disclosure in January of the video showing four Marines in full combat gear urinating on the bodies of three dead men led to a criminal investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service as well as a Marine investigation of the unit involved, the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, which fought in the southern Afghan province of Helmand for seven months before returning to its home base at Camp Lejeune, N.C., last September.
No investigation results have been released.
The investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service looked at whether crimes had been committed, as well as the question of who created the video and posted it on the Internet.
The video came to light in January, prompting U.S. military officials to sternly condemn the alleged acts. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said he feared that it could set back efforts to begin reconciliation talks with the Taliban.
On the video, which appeared on YouTube, one of the Marines looks down at the bodies and quipped, "Have a good day, buddy."
It was one in a string of embarrassing episodes for U.S. forces in Afghanistan. In recent months, American troops have been caught up in controversies over burning Muslim holy books, posing for photos with insurgents' bloodied remains and an alleged massacre of 17 Afghan villagers by a soldier now in U.S. confinement.
Gibson said Lt. Gen. Richard Mills, head of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, made the decision to launch a follow-up investigation based on "information that came to light" during the initial investigation of the battalion. The initial probe looked at various issues including whether the unit's officers exercised proper leadership.
The four Marines shown in the video are all enlisted. Their exact ranks have not been made public.
Gibson said Mills decided that "further inquiry into possible misconduct" by members of that unit was necessary "to have as complete of an understanding as possible of what actions took place." Another official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is still under way, said the new inquiry is focused on possible additional misconduct by some of the four Marines shown in the video as well as others in the same unit.
The behavior in question apparently happened around the same time as the depiction of the Marines urinating.
Robert Burns can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/robertburnsAP