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Court-martial for New York Marine in desecrations

A New York Marine whose alleged involvement last year in the videotaped desecration of dead Taliban fighters sparked reprisals in Afghanistan has been formally charged and will face a court-martial, a Pentagon spokesman said.

A Marine Corps spokesman said Staff Sgt. Edward W. Deptola of New York and Staff Sgt. Joseph W. Chamblin, both of the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., allegedly urinated on the corpses during a July 27, 2011, counterinsurgency operation in Helmand province.

The spokesman declined to release the hometowns of both men but said Deptola was from New York.

In a video, which is still available on YouTube, four U.S. Marines appear to be urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters. One Marine can be heard saying "Have a great day, buddy."

The January dissemination of the video sparked a violent backlash in Afghanistan, which added to concerns that U.S. efforts to build a dependable Afghan army were unraveling. In one incident, an Afghan soldier shot dead four unarmed French soldiers and injured 15 others. He said later he did so because of the desecrations. France responded by suspending its military operations in Afghanistan.

The commandant of the Marines, Gen. James F. Amos, issued a statement in January, saying he considered the video abhorrent and "wholly inconsistent with the high standards of conduct and warrior ethos that we have demonstrated throughout our history."

About a week later, a California Republican who served in Afghanistan, Rep. Duncan Hunter, said that, although punishment was warranted, it would be unfair to court-martial the Marines because U.S. forces there face "extraordinary conditions and danger" in battle.

Deptola was also charged with failing to supervise subordinates who also took part in the desecration, failing to report the incident, wrongfully discharging a recovered enemy machine gun, failing to stop the indiscriminate firing of weapons and wantonly damaging Afghan compounds.

Last month, three other Marines involved in the same incident received nonjudicial punishment, according to a Marine Corps statement issued Tuesday. Other Marines accused in the incident will face disciplinary actions in the near future, the statement said.

A Marine spokesman said Deptola is the only member of 2nd Battalion, 3rd Regiment Marine by that name and is from New York State.

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