Australian soldiers charged with manslaughter of Afghan children

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The Independent Online

Australia's top military prosecutor said three former Australian soldiers will be charged with manslaughter in relation to a raid on a compound in Afghanistan that left five children dead.

Brigadier Lyn McDade, the Director of Military Prosecutions, said today that the special forces soldiers face multiple charges including manslaughter, dangerous conduct and failing to comply with a lawful general order.

The charges relate to a February 2009 raid on a compound in southern Uruzgan province that was believed to harbour Taliban insurgents.

Six Afghans, including five children, were killed, and another two children and two adults were wounded.

The soldiers were not identified.

The civilians died after the Special Operations Task Group soldiers used gunfire and hand grenades during the operation, the defence department said at the time.

"During the conduct of this operation, the soldiers were fired upon by Taliban insurgents," the defence department said in a statement the day after the attack.

"The (soldiers) engaged the insurgents, returning fire in accordance with their rules of engagement."

The defence department has refused to comment on the attack since then.

It initially conducted its own investigation, before referring the matter to the military prosecutor, which operates independently of the department.

In her statement, Brig McDade said her investigations were completed only recently after "careful, deliberate and informed consideration". She declined to comment further.

The prosecutor described the men as "former" soldiers, but did not clarify when or why they left the military.

Australia has 1,550 troops in Afghanistan.



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