Britain’s defence ministry said it had launched an investigation into a video circulating on social media apparently showing soldiers using a picture of opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn for target practice.
The video, posted on Snapchat, shows four paratroopers firing shots at the picture with the caption “happy with that”.
“We are aware of a video circulating on social media,” an Army spokesperson said. “This behaviour is totally unacceptable and falls well below the high standards the Army expects. A full investigation has been launched.”
A Labour spokesman called the behaviour alarming and unacceptable but said the party was confident the Army would investigate and act on the incident.
The soldiers have been widely criticised.
“I’m shocked obviously that this sort of thing has happened,” Corbyn said. “I hope the Ministry of Defence will conduct an inquiry into it and find out what was going on and who did that.”
Referring to the threats against Rosie Cooper, who was the target of a neo-Nazi murder plot, and the atmosphere in British politics, Mr Corbyn said: “Yes people have disagreements and yes people have divisions.
“Conduct those divisions and disagreements in a respectful way. Don’t descend into something ugly and violent.”
Brigadier Nick Perry, commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade, said: “This is a serious error of judgment. Let me be clear – the Army is, and always will be, an apolitical organisation.
“We have 400 soldiers from the Brigade conducting force protection in Afghanistan, and working closely with both Nato and Afghan partners. These soldiers are doing an outstanding job out there.”
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said the video was “completely unacceptable”, adding: “I am pleased by the leadership shown by the Army in acting quickly to launch an investigation into this.
“This behaviour is far from the high standards we usually see and expect of the Army at any time and it is right that they conduct a thorough investigation into the incident.”
It is understood it was a non-lethal hardened wax substance aimed and fired at the image instead of metal bullets, with the incident taking place in the past few days.
The range is designed for and used by personnel to practise what is called the “guardian angel drill” – a force protection tactic.
Theresa May’s official spokesman said the incident was “clearly unacceptable”, and that the Prime Minister was aware of the video’s content but had not seen it.
Shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith said the “appalling footage comes at a time when members of Parliament face an unprecedented level of threat to their personal safety”.
The incident comes comes after far-right activist Tommy Robinson posted a photograph of himself surrounded by grinning soldiers in October – prompting another Army probe.
The former English Defence League leader also shared a video featuring Army personnel who cheered and shouted his name.
At the time, the Army said it was aware of the image and footage and was “investigating the circumstances”, adding that a “far right ideology is completely at odds with the values and ethos of the armed forces”.