KABUL: Afghanistan’s hardline Taliban on Thursday denounced as "barbaric" an online video apparently showing US Marines urinating on the bloodied corpses of slain insurgents.
The US military was investigating the "disgusting" footage, a Pentagon spokesman said, of what appears to be four servicemen dressed in United States military uniform relieving themselves onto three bodies.
They are apparently aware that they are being filmed.
"This is yet another barbaric act by foreign forces. Over the past 10 years there have been hundreds of similar cases that were not revealed," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed told AFP.
"We strongly condemn this," he said, adding that a more detailed statement would be issued later.
If authentic, the images — which conjure up previous abuses committed by US troops during the decade-long war — could spark deep anger and resentment in Afghanistan and the wider Muslim world.
The video has been broadcast by leading Afghan television station Tolo News.
The Pentagon has not yet verified the footage, but spokesman John Kirby told AFP: "Regardless of the circumstances or who is in the video, this is… egregious, disgusting behavior, unacceptable for anyone in uniform."
"It turned my stomach," he added of the video, which was posted on the Live Leak website.
A military official who asked not to be named said the helmet and weapon carried by one of the men seems to indicate the four could be members of an elite sniper team.
The official also said such conduct would be punishable under the US code of military justice.
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a prominent US Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, condemned the alleged desecration of corpses.
"If verified as authentic, the video shows behavior that is totally unbecoming of American military personnel and that could ultimately endanger other soldiers and civilians," CAIR said in a statement.
"Any guilty parties must be punished to the full extent allowed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice and by relevant American laws."
A statement issued by the Pentagon said: "Headquarters Marine Corps has recently been made aware of a video that portrays Marines urinating on what appear to be deceased members of the Taliban.
"While we have not yet verified the origin or authenticity of this video, the actions portrayed are not consistent with our core values and are not indicative of the character of the Marines in our Corps.
"This matter will be fully investigated."
Some 20,000 Marines are deployed in Afghanistan, mostly in Kandahar and Helmand provinces in the south of the war-ravaged country, the heartland of the Taliban movement ousted from power in late 2001.
The United States and its NATO allies have 130,000 troops fighting the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.
US and coalition partners plan to hand over security for the whole of the country to Afghan forces by the end of 2014, allowing the withdrawal of combat forces.
In March 2011 the US military apologized after pictures surfaced of US soldiers from a rogue army unit posing with dead Afghans. Five soldiers from the unit were charged with murder for allegedly shooting civilians for sport.
In November the ringleader of the "kill team" — which was also charged with taking fingers and teeth as trophies from civilians killed for sport — was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison by a military panel.
That scandal was among the worst faced by the military since the April 2004 revelation of prisoner abuse at the US-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, which became a potent negative symbol of the US occupation.
Eventually, 11 soldiers were convicted in connection with the abuse, and received punishments ranging from an army discharge to 10 years in prison.