Melbourne: Three Australian soldiers, who
were part of the international forces in Afghanistan, will
face charges over a deadly raid that left five children dead
in that nation, Australia`s top military prosecutor has said.
"They will be charged with various service offences,
including manslaughter, dangerous conduct, failing to comply
with a lawful general order and prejudicial conduct," said
Brigadier Lyn McDade, Director of Military Prosecutions.
Meanwhile, two of the three soldiers have denied the
charges levelled against them in an incident, that occurred on
February 12, 2009 in Uruzgan province.
According to a report in the ABC, two of the soldiers,
known only as Soldiers A and B, issued a statement late last
night stating that they were forced to make split-second
decisions when they came under fire.
They said that when the facts of the battle became
public, it would be clear that decisions they took in "truly
awful circumstances" would be vindicated.
"We will strenuously defend the charges and we look
forward to the opportunity of publicly clearing our
reputations, as well as the reputation of the Australian
Defence Force," the pair said through law firm Kennedys.
Soldiers A and B also criticised media for what they
dubbed "many cases" of inaccurate reports of the clearance
operations. They said words would never adequately express
their regret that women and children were killed and injured
during the incident.
They said those were the people they were risking
their lives to protect.
The soldiers put the blame for the deaths at the feet
of the enemy, saying it should not be forgotten the casualties
were ultimately caused by the "callous and reckless" act of an
insurgent, who chose to fire upon them at close range from
within a room known to contain women and children.
A Defence spokesman said two of the soldiers are
reservists and one is a regular member of the Army.
Director of Military Prosecutions said three former
members of the Special Operations Task Group have been charged
with a number of offences relating to the February 2009 raid.
One soldier is facing a manslaughter charge, a second
has been charged with failing to comply with a lawful general
order, and a third, currently travelling overseas, will be
formally charged when he returns to Australia.
Defence previously said the deaths occurred as the
soldiers conducted clearance operations using gunfire and hand
grenades. The decision to press charges came after the ADF
carried out an operational investigation and referred the
incident to the Director of Military Prosecutions.