The US Marines believe they have identified the troops seen urinating in a shocking video on the corpses of insurgents in Afghanistan, a senior American military official said Thursday.
The Pentagon has "identified them" and their originating base in the United States, said the official on condition of anonymity, effectively dampening speculation about whether or not the men pictured were actually US personnel.
A second official, US Marines spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Plenzler, said they have "identified the unit," but added that "we cannot release the name of the unit at this time since the incident is being investigated."
US cable network CNN quoted an unnamed US Marine official as saying the military branch was "confident" the troops in the inflammatory video were from the 3rd Battalion 2nd Marine Regiment, based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
The unit deployed to Afghanistan, mainly in Helmand province, in early 2011 and returned in September or October, CNN reported.
The administration of President Barack Obama has expressed revulsion at the video, with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta condemning the acts as "utterly deplorable" and vowing a full investigation by the Marines and the Kabul-based International Security Assistance Force.
Panetta also spoke by telephone with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, according to White House spokesman Jay Carney, who denounced acts depicted in the video as "deplorable, reprehensible and unacceptable."
"But I don't know whether or not the president has actually seen the video," Carney told reporters.
"He is certainly aware of it and shares in the sentiment expressed by Secretary Panetta."