A US military investigation into the burning of Korans in Afghanistan has blamed miscommunication, poor guidance and soldiers’ decisions to take “the easy way instead of the right way”.

The burning of more than 300 Korans and other religious books at a US base in Afghanistan early this year triggered riots and retribution killings.

The US Army announced on Monday that six soldiers had received “administrative” punishments. They will not face criminal charges.

Administrative punishments could include demotions, extra duty, forfeiture of pay or a letter in their file.

The investigation report provided new details about the burnings.

Officials believed prisoners were using the Korans and other religious books to exchange secret messages.

The religious books and other materials were put in burn bags and were taken to a fire pit used to burn rubbish.

More than 2,000 books, including about 1,200 religious texts and Korans, were targeted for disposal, but most were saved when an angry crowd of Afghans intervened.

Investigators found that service members “mishandled” Korans and other religious material and put them in an incinerator. It was concluded that there was no “malicious intent”.

The report blamed miscommunications, ignorance about the handling of Korans and a failure to provide clear guidance.

It said service members relied too heavily on one linguist’s conclusion that the Korans, which had militant messages in them, were rewritten versions that were extremist and would not be considered real Korans.

It also said the service members mistakenly interpreted a commander’s order to get rid of the books as permission to take them to the burn pit.

Only one of the service members assigned to transport the books to the burn pit knew they were carrying religious books.

According to the report, after commanders at the detention centre realised a mistake was being made, the troops they dispatched to stop the burning went to the wrong location and did not find the truck with the books.

It was only when a local Afghan at the incinerator noticed that Korans were being burned that he called for help from other workers, and they turned off the burner and began to douse the flames with water.

The three service members disposing of the books “became frightened by the growing, angry crowd and rapidly departed the area” in the truck, the investigation said.