Afghanistan: dialectic of desecration

The US Army is probing claims that its troops in Afghanistan burned the bodies of two Taliban fighters they had killed and used the smoldering corpses to taunt insurgents. An Australian TV show broadcast images Oct. 19 of US soldiers incinerating the corpses outside Gonbaz in southern Afghanistan (Faryab provicne) with the bodies facing west toward Mecca, the direction of Muslim daily prayers—in an apparent deliberate denigration of Islamic belief. Islam prohibits cremation and considers desecration of bodies to be blasphemous.

The video was taken by Australian freelance photojournalist Stephen Dupont, who was embedded with a US unit. The footage was aired on the Australian Special Broadcasting Service program “Dateline.”

The Taliban fighters were kiled during an ambush of a US patrol on Oct. 1. One US and one Afghan army soldier also were killed in the clash, the program said.

After the bodies were burnt, two US soldiers broadcast a message over a loudspeaker. One message reportedly said: “Attention Taliban, you are all cowardly dogs. You allowed your fighters to be laid down facing west and burned. You are too scared to retrieve their bodies. This just proves you are the lady boys we always believed you to be.”

The soldiers said they burned the bodies for health reasons after they had been left out in the open for over 24 hours, according to the Dateline program. But Dupont said the US troops sought to provoke hidden Taliban fighters into attacking. (Bloomberg, Oct. 20)

Meanhwhile for all their piety, the Taliban themselves don’t seem to be above carrying out military attacks on mosques when it suits their purposes—in direct violation of Koranic prescriptions. (Surah 2:190-3)

Reports say thousands of people marched through a town in eastern Afghanistan’s Khost province Oct. 20 to protest the Taliban’s killing a Muslim cleric who supported President Hamid Karzai’s government. The cleric, Mohammad Khan, who had often denounced the Taliban, died Oct. 14 in a bomb blast at his mosque. Some 18 other worshippers were wounded. Since Khan’s death, two other pro-government clerics have been shot dead by suspected Taliban rebels.

Mohammed Ayob, the region’s police chief, said “thousands and thousands of people” had filled the small town’s streets, alleyways and a downtown square. Mohammed Akbar Zadran, a government district chief, put the number of protesters at 4,000. “People are shouting, ‘Die terrorists! Die terrorists!'” he said. “They are demanding the government protect the clerics so no more are killed.”

This was the latest in a string of attacks on Afghanistan’s Muslim leaders. The most senior cleric to have been killed is Abdul Fayaz, the Muslim leader in Kandahar who was slain in May. At his funeral a few days after his killing, a suicide bombing left 20 people dead.

In another development, two French soldiers of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force were wounded by a home-made bomb placed by the roadside in northwestern Kabul Oct. 19. (Radio Free Afghanistan, AP, Oct. 20) Two Afghan soliders were also killed when their vehicle hit a landmine near Baghran in southern Helmand province. (Xinhua, Oct. 20)

See our last post on Afghanistan.