Skip to main content

Marines investigate photos from Iraq that reportedly show troops burning bodies

By Brian Todd, Dugald McConnell and Dana Ford, CNN
updated 7:05 PM EST, Wed January 15, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Islamic custom strictly forbids cremation
  • TMZ.com publishes images that purport to show Marines burning human remains
  • The gossip website says the photographs were shot in Falluja in 2004
  • Falluja was the site of some of the bloodiest fighting between U.S. forces and insurgents

(CNN) -- The Marine Corps is working to determine the authenticity of photos published by TMZ.com that purport to show Marines burning the bodies of what appear to be Iraqi insurgents.

The celebrity and gossip website said it has 41 photographs believed shot in Falluja in 2004. It published eight on Wednesday, saying the rest of the images were too graphic.

"The actions depicted in these photos are not what we expect from our service members, nor do they represent the honorable and professional service of the more than 2.5 million Americans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan," the Defense Department said.

"The Marine Corps is currently investigating the veracity of these photos, circumstances involved, and if possible, the identities of the service members involved. The findings from this investigation will determine whether we are able to move forward with any investigation into possible wrongdoing."

Female Marines can't do three pull-ups?

Among the published photographs, a person in a Marine uniform appears to be pouring gasoline or some other flammable liquid on the bodies of insurgents. The remains are shown ablaze, and then charred.

Islamic custom strictly forbids cremation.

In another photograph, a Marine poses for the camera next to a human skull.

"There are well over a dozen bodies in the pics and some are covered with flies and one is being eaten by a dog," TMZ.com reported.

It said it turned the photographs over to the Pentagon last week and that U.S. Central Command had reviewed them to see whether they had previously been brought to its attention. They had not.

During the Iraq war, Falluja was the site of some of the bloodiest fighting between U.S. forces and insurgents. The battles were among the worst Marines had seen since Vietnam, said former Marine Capt. Jonathan Rue.

"This looks really bad, but we don't know exactly what was happening, and we don't know what the circumstances were. Nor do we know exactly who was in those photos," he said.

If the images prove authentic, it wouldn't be the first time Marines have come under fire for the treatment of enemy bodies.

In July 2011, Marines urinated on dead Taliban fighters and posed for photographs with the corpses in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

The incident did not come to light publicly until January of the following year, when a 39-second video showing the desecration was posted on the Internet. The video inflamed tensions over the U.S. presence in Afghanistan.

"People in battlefield situations do very strange and reprehensible things, and maybe that's simply part of life, and that's why you need to have a military justice system that can punish people and hopefully discourage this kind of conduct in the future," said Eugene Fidell, with Yale Law School, in response to the recently-published photographs.

"That isn't going to be an answer however to people in Iraq, who are likely to be very infuriated by this."

Moderates hard to find as 'bad old days' return in Baghdad

Source: Missing U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl seen in video

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Where better to start a record-breaking solar powered flight than the desert?
updated 10:27 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
Ahmed Eldin is the 18-year-old behind the prog-rock band's new album cover. Shine on you crazy diamond.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
The Humans of New York photo project exposes the hopes and fears of ordinary people in Iraq and Jordan.
updated 10:47 PM EDT, Sun September 14, 2014
At first glance, the UAE seems ill-suited to ice hockey: the only snow and ice to be found is usually in fabricated form in a shopping mall.
updated 10:06 PM EDT, Tue September 9, 2014
Dubai's appetite for construction continues with multi-billion dollar boost to build the world's largest airport.
updated 12:40 AM EDT, Mon September 8, 2014
Does faith have a place on the sports field? One Muslim NFL star believes so.
updated 11:02 PM EDT, Mon September 8, 2014
The UAE is becoming a hub for plastic surgery with more Emiratis going under the knife each year.
updated 7:20 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Meet Erdal Inci, a digital artist from Turkey who is transforming the medium.
updated 9:39 AM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Iran is pumping billions of dollars into a scheme to save a lake. What's so important about it?
updated 10:18 PM EDT, Thu August 7, 2014
A volatile Middle East has changed the tenor of Ramadan programming in Egypt. Now, no topic is too taboo.
updated 10:53 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Dubai has got some big animal attractions in its mega malls. But not everyone is wild about the idea.
updated 11:14 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Orhan Pamuk, Turkey's Nobel Prize-winning author, is neither afraid to confront the human condition nor the state his country is in.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT