Five Royal Marines have been charged with murder in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence said today.
They were accused over an incident while 3 Commando Brigade was based in Helmand province last year.
They are the first British troops to be charged with murder in the country since deployments began in 2001.
The incident in the Nad-e-Ali district has been described by the MoD as ‘an engagement with an insurgent’, with no civilians involved.
Four other marines held last week in Britain on suspicion of murder have been released without charge pending further enquiries.
The accused men are in custody after the Royal Military Police referred the cases to the independent Service Prosecuting Authority which oversees military trials.
An MoD spokesperson said those charged with murder ‘remain in custody pending court proceedings’.
‘It would be inappropriate to comment further on this ongoing investigation.’
According to the Daily Telegraph, the servicemen were arrested after a video was discovered on a laptop belonging to a Royal Marine.
It reportedly showed members of a Marine patrol standing around a Taliban fighter discussing whether to give him first aid as he lay injured on the ground in a compound.
The film is said to end before anything happens.The man subsequently died.
During a six-month tour of duty, which lasted from April to October last year, seven servicemen from 3 Commando Brigade were killed in action, all from 42 Commando.
The tour, Operation Herrick 14, was the unit’s fourth and saw the force score notable successes in capturing explosives from the Taliban.
The rules of engagement, largely derived from the Geneva Convention, dictate under what circumstances British troops are allowed to open fire, whether that is to prevent an attack by the enemy or in direct contact.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond did not comment on the specifics of the case but insisted the MoD was ‘determined that rules of engagement’ be followed.
He added: ‘Everybody serving in theatre knows the rules of engagement, they carry cards in their uniforms with the rules on them in case they should need to remind themselves.’
A Territorial Army soldier was investigated by military officials after shooting dead a suspected Taliban bomber in the Nahr-e-Saraj area of central Helmand in the summer of 2010.
Senior officers believed the man may have been an innocent farmer. But after an 18-month inquiry no charges were brought against Fusilier Duane Knott, who said he had no regrets over his action.
Source: The Daily Mail