The U.S. Marine Corps "is attempting to determine the authenticity of photos published by TMZ.com that the entertainment website says show Marines appearing to burn bodies of dead Iraqi insurgents in Fallujah in 2004," The Associated Press reports.
If a small group of Marines did pour gasoline on the bodies of enemy fighters, ignite the remains and then — in at least one image — pose next to a human skull, the images could anger many Iraqis and give Muslim extremists some more fodder for their propaganda files about the U.S.
NPR's Quil Lawrence notes that "in 2012, photos of troops urinating on enemy corpses in Afghanistan sparked outrage" among many in that country.
The photos of abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison in 2003, when it was controlled by U.S. forces, also inflamed anti-U.S. passions.
As for the newly released images, TMZ says it "obtained 41 pictures that we're told were shot in Fallujah in 2004." It posted eight of them. "Many are just too gruesome" to publish, the website says. "There are well over a dozen bodies in the pics and some are covered with flies and one is being eaten by a dog."
TMZ's report begins here. Clicking the link will not automatically open the images. TMZ has put a warning on the page that says "these pictures are horrifically graphic." It takes two more clicks to get to the photos — a process that should prevent visitors to the site from seeing the images if they do not wish to.
According to the AP, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steven Warren "said the proper handling of war remains is set by U.S. military regulation. He said the actions depicted in the photos 'are not what we expect from our service members.' "
CNN adds that the Defense Department also said in a statement that what is depicted in the photos does not "represent the honorable and professional service of the more than 2.5 million Americans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan."
"Islamic custom strictly forbids cremation," CNN notes.