A U.S. military investigation is recommending that as many as seven U.S. service members face administrative punishments, but not criminal charges, in the burning of Qurans at a U.S. base in Afghanistan in February, the Associated Press has learned.
U.S. military officials said the classified report and recommendations for disciplinary action against the service members were delivered to the Pentagon more than a week ago. They have been turned over to the secretaries of the Army and the Navy. No final decisions have been made.
According to the officials, one member of the Navy and as many as six members of the Army could face nonjudicial disciplinary actions, which can range from a letter of reprimand in their files to docking their pay or assigning them additional duties.
The lack of any criminal charges is in line with early assertions from military officials that the incident, while regrettable, was a mistake. But it is likely to anger Afghans who were enraged by the burning.
Thousands took to the streets across the country in deadly riots after it happened. More than 30 people were killed in the clashes, including two U.S. soldiers who were shot by an Afghan soldier and two U.S. military advisers who were gunned down at their desks at the Interior Ministry.
The Qurans and other Islamic books were taken from the Parwan Detention Facility, and officials believed that extremists being detained there were using the texts to exchange messages. The religious books and other materials were put in burn bags and later thrown into a fire pit used to burn garbage at Bagram Air Field, a major U.S. base north of Kabul.
Altogether, two Navy and nine Army service members in Afghanistan were sent back to the United States in connection with the Quran burning shortly after it occurred. But, based on the investigating officer's report, several would not face any punishments.
U.S. officials have said that the service members did not know what they were throwing into the burn pit and that the books were pulled out by Afghan workers before they were destroyed. President Obama apologized to Afghan President Hamid Karzai for the incident.
In Afghanistan, meanwhile, violence spiked in the south as militants stormed a NATO military base and attacked a police checkpoint Tuesday, a day after gunmen wearing police uniforms killed a U.S. soldier.
Insurgents attacked a NATO base before dawn Tuesday in Kandahar's Shah Wali Kot district, the U.S.-led coalition said.
Fewer than 10 U.S. soldiers were wounded, and officials believe that coalition forces were able to kill seven or eight insurgents, said Navy Capt. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman.
A few hours later, militants wearing Afghan police uniforms attacked a police checkpoint in Kandahar city. Three police officers were killed and nine wounded during the hourlong gunbattle that ensued, according to the Interior Ministry. Four militants also died.