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Afghan boys’ shooting by UK soldier allegations ‘very, very grave’ – judge

Published time: April 17, 2013 11:04
Edited time: May 13, 2013 14:04
AFP Photo / Essam Al-Sudani

AFP Photo / Essam Al-Sudani

A British soldier is under high court investigation for murder following the shootings of four teenage boys age 12-18. The boys had been ‘deliberately targeted while at close range’. The unidentified soldier is accused of killing three of them.

Fazel, 18, Naik, 16, Mohammed, 14, and Ahmed, 12, were all killed in a residential Afghan area last October. Original reports indicated that the four victims had been shot in both the head and the neck, dying as a direct result of their bullet wounds.

The allegations were called “very, very grave,” by a high court judge on Tuesday, according to The Guardian newspaper.

When the case was first confronted last December, it was unclear whether the individuals involved in the killing of the 12-year-old and other teenagers were of British or Afghan descent; the looser term ‘British forces’ was used to describe the identities of the suspects. It has since emerged that one British soldier killed three of the youths.

“If a trained soldier shoots not one, but three people at close range in the area of the head and neck, it erases the question ... of whether he was deliberately shooting to kill,”
said Mr. Justice Holman.

Relatives of the deceased requested that the high court hearing be held. The Ministry of Defense did not begin to conduct an investigation into the matter until six weeks after the deaths. The court heard that this only occurred after a lawyer for two victims’ relatives said she was preparing legal action, according to the newspaper.

The judge has ruled that surnames cannot be released, under protection of anonymity. The accused soldier also currently remains anonymous.

The incident happened in the Loi Bagh village, in the west, around 200 miles (322km) from the Iranian border.

British forces entered at around 8pm local time on October 18, apparently taking part in an insurgency operation against the Taliban in the residential area.

The two youngest were schoolboys who were spending the night in the compound, whilst the two others were a shopkeeper and a farmer, according to the original December reports.

The young boys were allegedly armed Taliban insurgents, according to the UK defense lawyers. However, these claims have been rebuffed by the boys’ relatives.

“The four boys killed all appear to have been deliberately targeted at close range by British forces,” said a letter received by the UK Ministry of Defense, published in The Guardian last December.

However, it has since emerged that one soldier of Afghan origin is suspected of carrying out one of the murders.

The number and frequency of civilian deaths in Afghanistan at the hands of both UK and US troops has been an ongoing matter of concern.

In February this year, United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) published new statistics, saying that although there had been a 12 per cent decrease in the overall number of civilian casualties from previous years in 2012, the numbers were still high.

The staggering 7,559 civilian casualties were comprised of 2,754 civilian deaths and 4,805 civilian injuries.

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