WASHINGTON: US Defence Secretary Leon E. Panetta Wednesday rejected the conduct depicted in two-year-old photos of several US soldiers posing with corpses of Afghan militants, released in a front page story of the Los Angeles Times.
The Los Angeles Times Wednesday published a story and a photo showing a US soldier with a dead insurgent's hand on his shoulder.
The US newspaper later posted another photo on its website showing several other US soldiers holding legs upright of another dead militant's mangled corpse.
Pentagon soon released a statement of Panetta, who is in Brussels for a conference of NATO defence and foreign ministers that a probe is underway that could lead to disciplinary measures.
"Anyone found responsible for this inhuman conduct will be held accountable in accordance with our military justice system," Xinhua quoted Panetta as saying.
"These images by no means represent the values or professionalism of the vast majority of US troops serving in Afghanistan today," said the statement.
Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said Panetta was disappointed that the newspaper published the photos despite a Pentagon request not to do so.
According to the Los Angeles Times story, a soldier who had served in Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne's 4th Brigade Combat Team from Fort Bragg, N.C., anonymously provided 18 such photographs taken over several months because he believed they represented a breakdown in leadership and discipline that compromised troop safety.
Marine Corps General John R. Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force, also issued a statement in Kabul strongly condemning the actions depicted in the photos.
Allen said the incident represented "a serious error in judgment by several soldiers who have acted out of ignorance and unfamiliarity with US Army values" that could "undermine the daily sacrifices of thousands of ISAF troops".