PUL-E-ALAM, Afghanistan — Military investigators have concluded that five U.S. service members were involved in the incineration of a pile of Korans in Afghanistan last week, according to U.S. military officials who have been briefed on the inquiry.
The burning of the Muslim holy books — which U.S. officials say was accidental — incited a week of protests that left 30 Afghans dead. The burnings also were cited as motivation for at least some of the six fatal attacks on U.S. military personnel that have occurred in Afghanistan since then.
Investigators appointed by Marine Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, found that the service members removed the Korans from a prison at Bagram air base after they were discovered to contain extremist messages.
The books were then placed in an office for safekeeping, according to the inquiry. But they were mistaken for garbage and taken to a landfill on the base. Afghan employees identified the books as Korans just as the pages caught fire on Feb. 20, a major desecration according to Muslim teachings. The discovery led to a week of unprecedented tension between U.S. and Afghan military officials.
U.S. military officials said that although the five service members will be reprimanded, it is unlikely that their names will be released or that their punishment will approach the severity of what some Afghans are demanding.
A separate Afghan investigation is being conducted by lawmakers and religious officials. A third investigative panel includes U.S. and Afghan officials.