The U.S. military is expected to announce disciplinary action on Monday in response to two incidents that provoked outrage in Afghanistan early this year, one over a video depicting Marines urinating on corpses and another involving burning copies of the Koran, U.S. officials said.
The Army was expected to announce that six soldiers would receive administrative punishments over an incident in which copies of the Koran and other religious material were removed from a prison library and sent to an incinerator to be destroyed, a U.S. official said on condition of anonymity.
The incident in February touched off several days of rioting and attacks on U.S. troops after local workers found charred copies of the Koran among the trash at the incinerator at the Bagram base north of Kabul.
An Army captain who collapsed and died in Afghanistan while communicating with his wife over Skype was not shot and his body showed no immediate evidence of trauma beyond minor abrasions, an Army spokesman said on Monday.
The Virginia-based U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) said its investigation into Captain Bruce Clark’s May 1 death is continuing.
“Although we have not completely ruled it out to ensure a complete and thorough investigation is conducted, we do not suspect foul play in the death of Captain Clark at this point in our ongoing investigation,” said CID spokesperson Chris Grey.
Clark’s family released two statements over the weekend on his death, according to USA Today.
Bradley Manning, the U.S. intelligence analyst charged with leaking thousands of classified U.S. government cables to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, will face a court martial on September 21, a military judge said on Wednesday.
Manning is accused of downloading more than 700,000 classified or confidential files from the military while serving in Iraq, the largest leak of classified documents in U.S. history.
Military judge Colonel Denise Lind said that military prosecutors and Manning’s defense team had decided on a tentative trial schedule beginning September 21 and lasting through October 12. The trial will start more than two years after Manning was arrested.
READ MORE: Bradley Manning faces trial in September
Heavy explosions, rockets and gunfire rattled Kabul on Sunday as Afghanistan’s Taliban launched a “spring offensive” with multiple attacks targeting Western embassies, the NATO force’s headquarters and the parliament building.
The assault, one of the most serious on the capital since U.S.-backed Afghan forces removed the Taliban from power in 2001, highlighted the ability of militants to strike the heavily guarded diplomatic zone even after more than 10 years of war.
It was also another election-year setback in Afghanistan for U.S. President Barack Obama, who wants to present the long campaign against the Taliban as a success before the departure of most foreign combat troops by the end of 2014.
“These attacks are the beginning of the spring offensive and we had planned them for months,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters.
The United States said on Wednesday it appears to be on track to sign a strategic partnership agreement with Afghanistan charting their future relations during or before a late May NATO summit.
U.S. and Afghan officials have been trying to negotiate an accord for a long-term U.S. presence in Afghanistan beyond a 2014 deadline for most NATO combat forces to withdraw, allowing advisers and possibly some special forces to stay on.
The two countries earlier signed a deal on the transfer of a major U.S.-run prison to Afghan authority, leaving military raids on Afghan homes conducted at night as the final sticking point for reaching a deal.
Suspected insurgents opened fire on Tuesday on senior Afghan investigators of the massacre of 16 civilians by a lone U.S. soldier, Afghan officials said, just hours after the Taliban threatened to behead American troops to avenge the killings.
The gunmen shot from long range at two of President Hamid Karzai’s brothers, Shah Wali Karzai and Abdul Qayum Karzai, and security officials at the site of the massacre in Kandahar’s Panjwai district.
Karzai’s brothers were unharmed in the brief battle, which began during meetings with local people at a mosque near Najiban and Alekozai villages, but a soldier was killed and a civilian wounded. The area is a Taliban stronghold and a supply route.
The Taliban had earlier threatened reprisals for the weekend shooting spree, which came weeks after deadly riots across the country over the burning of copies of the Koran by U.S. troops at NATO’s main base in the country. That violence led to calls to accelerate a 2014 goal for the exit of most foreign combat troops.
President Barack Obama sent a letter to Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday apologizing for the burning of copies of the Koran at U.S. military base in Afghanistan, the White House said.
“In the letter, delivered by Ambassador (Ryan) Crocker this afternoon in Kabul, the president also expressed our regret and apologies over the incident in which religious materials were unintentionally mishandled at Bagram Airbase,” White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said.
The burning of Korans at the Bagram airbase near Kabul has sparked fierce protests against U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.