WASHINGTON: The US Marine Corps took a first, formal step on Friday towards possible charges against four Marines who, in a widely circulated video, appear to be urinating on the bodies of dead Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.

It named a lead investigating officer whose job would include deciding what charges, if any, would be brought against the men, all of whom had been identified, a Marine Corps official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Pentagon has responded quickly to the video, a move Defence Secretary Leon Panetta and other top US officials hope will limit the fallout.

The video is likely to stir up already strong anti-US sentiment in Afghanistan. That could complicate efforts to promote reconciliation as foreign troops withdraw, although a Taliban spokesman said last week it would not harm efforts to broker peace talks.

The video, posted on YouTube and other websites, shows four Marines in camouflage combat uniforms urinating on three corpses. It has not been verified that the dead men were indeed Taliban fighters but the Marine Corps said the video appeared to depict “several dead Taliban”.

None of the suspects has been detained, the Marine Corps official said.

Others are likely to be brought into the investigation, including the person who made the film.

The corps said the lead investigating officer, known as the consolidated disposition authority, was Lieutenant General Waldhause, the commander of Marine Corps Forces Central Command.

Officials said the Marine Corps was confident the video was authentic.

News of the footage has yet to really spread in Afghanistan, a country where a minority has access to electricity and the internet is limited to a tiny urban elite. – Reuters