An Afghanistan-based U.S. Marine sniper team posed in front of flag emblazoned with a Nazi SS symbol, it emerged Thursday.

The photo, which began to circulate on the Internet in May, was originally posted on the Knights Armament Blog and has caused outrage among Marine veterans and Holocaust survivors' groups.

But military officials say the use of the distinctive double-lightning-bolt SS logo was not racially motivated and those involved have already been dealt with.

Speaking to AP, Lt. Col Stewart Upton said the photo was taken in September 2010 in Sangin Province, Afghanistan, and the Marines involved were no longer with the original unit.

Military Religious Freedom Foundation spokesman Mikey Weinstein said his foundation had been flooded with calls from former Marines offended by the photo and from one member of his organization who is an Auschwitz survivor.

This needs to be fully investigated. This is a complete and total outrage, he said.

The SS, or Schutzstaffel, swore a personal oath of allegiance to Adolf Hitler and acted as the Nazi Party's police force.

They also had a militarized wing distinct from the general German army, the Waffen SS, which was known for its brutal fighting tactics.

During World War II, SS units played an integral role in running death camps and exterminating millions of Jews, along with Gypsies and other people classed as undesirables.