No Criminal Charges for Soldiers in Koran Burning

As many as 100 Muslim holy books incinerated, general said it was an accident

August 27, 2012, 5:35 PM

Aug. 27, 2012 — -- Six Army soldiers have received administrative non-judicial punishments for their role in the inadvertent burning of Korans in Afghanistan, meaning they will not face criminal charges for an incident that set off deadly protests in Afghanistan in January.

Similar punishments were handed down earlier Monday to three Marines involved in an inflammatory video posted on the internet in January that showed them urinating on the corpses of several Taliban fighters. Additional punishments are expected to be announced in the future against other Marines involved in that incident.

READ: Punishments Handed Down For Marines in Urinating Video

At the time, top Pentagon officials expressed concern that the incidents, separated by just weeks, could set off a backlash against U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Violent street protests followed the Koran burning in February and two U.S. Army soldiers were shot at their desks in the Afghan Interior Ministry in an attack by an Afghan soldier which officials said was motivated by the burning.

A defense official told ABC News the six soldiers being disciplined for the burning include four officers and two enlisted soldiers -- a warrant officer is among the four officers. A Navy sailor was also investigated for his alleged role, but the admiral who reviewed his case determined he was not guilty and that no further disciplinary action was warranted.

The Army did not specify exactly how the soldiers had been punished, but generally non-judicial administrative punishments can include, among other things, a reprimand, reductions in rank, forfeiting pay, extra duties or being restricted to a military base.

The punishments remain on a service member's permanent record and can prevent further promotions

U.S. Central Command posted a redacted copy of the full investigation into the incident on its website.

DOWNLOAD: Central Command's Investigation Into Koran Burning

The Korans and other religious materials had been taken from the Parwan Detention Facility and were slated for incineration in a burn pit at Bagram Air Field. Officials at the detention facility suspected that detainees were using the religious texts to pass along messages to each other.

The report indicates that possibly as many as 100 Korans were consumed in the fire. Nearly 500 Korans and 1,123 other religious books were recovered and inventoried during the investigation.

Shortly after the incident, Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, quickly released a written apology and a video statement. President Obama apologized to Afghan President Hamid Karzai for the incident.

In an interview this past March with ABC News' Martha Raddatz, Allen reiterated that although the U.S. was investigating the incident, he did not believe the burning was intentional.

"I don't think for a second that anyone intended to defame the religious publications or the Koran or anyone sought to desecrate the faith," he said. "I don't believe that for a second."

He added, "You fix things that are broken and you hold people accountable... That's why you do investigations and we're headed in that direction."

READ: Gen. John Allen Stands by U.S. Apology for Koran Burning

The Army announced the administrative punishments in a statement, saying "We take these incidents seriously."

It said the Army had taken "immediate corrective action and implemented many of the investigation's recommendations along with re-emphasizing proper handling of religious materials to all soldiers during pre-deployment training in order to minimize the potential for reoccurrence."

In the immediate aftermath of the incident Allen also ordered cultural and religious sensitivity training for troops from the 50 NATO countries serving in Afghanistan before and after they deploy there.

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