This post has been updated.
Top U.S. officials moved swiftly Thursday to try to prevent diplomatic damage and contain public disgust from the release of a video that appeared to show Marines urinating on three Afghan corpses — images that spread quickly around the globe.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said he had viewed the video and considered it “utterly deplorable.” He telephoned Afghan President Hamid Karzai and pledged a full investigation.
Prior to the call, Karzai described the video as “completely inhumane and condemnable in the strongest possible terms.” His administration called on the U.S. military to “apply the most severe punishment to anyone found guilty in this crime.”
The video, which runs for less than a minute, depicts four Marines in combat gear laughing and joking as they urinate on three male bodies. The caption refers to the corpses as “dead Talibans,” but it is unclear whether the men were civilians or fighters killed after a battle.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed “total dismay” at the behavior depicted in the recording, and said the “vast, vast” majority of American military personnel would not engage in such actions.
Warning: The video includes graphic images.
A Marine official said investigators were questioning two individuals that they had preliminarily identified as being in the video. The Marine Corps is “fairly confident” that all four are members of the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the probe is underway.
There was no way to determine independently where the video was filmed or the identities of those involved. It was first posted on the Internet on Wednesday and began to circulate quickly as news sites reported on its existence.