A spokesperson for the French military has said that a soldier behaved unacceptably by wearing a scarf around his face that bore a grinning skull reminiscent of the character Lieutenant Simon "Ghost" Riley from Call of Duty, AFP reports.
The soldier, whose identity is unknown, was photographed by AFP photographer Issouf Sanogo in central Mali where French troops are currently stationed. Sanogo describes the conditions the soldiers were in that led to the man donning the scarf:
A helicopter was coming in to land and churning up tremendous dust clouds. Instinctively, all the soldiers grabbed their scarfs to avoid getting a mouthful of sand. It was evening, and rays of sunlight were pushing through the trees and into the dust clouds. It was a lovely light. I spotted this soldier wearing a strange scarf and took the photo. At the time, nothing about the scene seemed especially unusual or shocking. The soldier wasn't posing and there was nothing staged about the image. He was just standing there, protecting his face from the dust, waiting for the chopper to land. No one tried to stop me shooting the picture.
Upon seeing the photo, the military command reacted angrily, with a spokesperson in Paris saying the soldier's behavior was "unacceptable."
"This image is not representative of France's actions in Mali," Coloniel Thierry Burkhard said at a news conference.
AFP reports that the photograph received a strong response from the French media, with one newspaper running the headline: "Mali: un soldat se croit dans un jeu vidéo" (Mali: a soldier believes he is in a video game). On Twitter, critics called the wearer of the scarf "shameful".
Kotaku points out that the skull-embalzoned balaclava worn by the Ghost character in Call of Duty was not created by Infinity Ward and did not make its first appearance in the popular game series. Instead, it was the other way around, with the mask first being worn by soldiers in real-life before being adopted by the game.
Colonel Thierry Burkhard says that the army is working to identify the masked man.