TMZ.com, not exactly the first place you think of for a story like this, published a series of grisly, stomach-turning photos this afternoon that the website claims shows U.S. Marines burning the bodies of dead Iraqi insurgents in Fallujah back in 2004. You can view the eight published photos for yourself here (be warned: they're incredibly graphic).
The site says that the photos are part of a larger trove of pictures—41 in all—that they obtained from an unnamed source and turned over to the government last week. ("We have not included all of the photos," TMZ explains. "Many are just too gruesome"—a statement that will give you chills after you look at the photos that were published.) It's unclear, however, to what extent TMZ tried to confirm the authenticity of the photos themselves, writing only that "we're told [they] were shot in Fallujah in 2004."
The Pentagon confirmed this afternoon that its currently investigating the veracity of the photos, and said that if the pictures turn out to be legitimate the military could look to punish those soldiers it can identify. Here's the full statement Pentagon spokesperson Commander Bill Speaks gave to the Wire this afternoon:
"We are aware of photos appearing on TMZ.com that depict individuals in U.S. Marine uniforms burning what appear to be human remains. The actions depicted in these photos are not what we expect from our service members, nor do they represent the honorable and professional service of the more than 2.5 million Americans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Marine Corps is currently investigating the veracity of these photos, circumstances involved, and if possible, the identities of the service members involved. The findings from this investigation will determine whether we are able to move forward with any investigation into possible wrongdoing."
Fallujah, you'll no doubt remember, was the site of intense fighting back in 2004, with nearly 100 American soldiers killed during the seige of the city. Earlier this month, in something of a sad coda, it fell back into the hands of al-Qaida-affiliated insurgents.
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