Gurkha soldier decapitates dead Taliban commander with kukri
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Last Updated: Sunday, July 18, 2010, 23:08
London: A young Gurkha soldier, who allegedly decapitated a dead Taliban commander with his kukri to prove the militant's identity, has been flown back to the UK to face court martial, a media report said on Sunday.

The soldier, who is in his early 20s, from 1st Battalion, Royal Gurkha Rifles, was involved in a fierce firefight with insurgents in the Babaji area of central Helmand Province when the incident took place earlier this month.

His unit had been told that they were seeking a 'high value target,' a Taliban commander, and that they must prove they had killed the right man, Daily Mail reported.

Army sources told the paper that the soldier initially told investigators that he unsheathed his kukri the symbolic weapon of the Gurkhas after running out of ammunition.

The soldier, who was not identified, is understood to have removed the man's head from the area, leaving the rest of his body on the battlefield.

This is considered a gross insult to the Muslims of Afghanistan, who bury the entire body of their dead even if parts have to be retrieved, the paper said.

"The soldier has been removed from duty and flown home. There is no sense of glory involved here, more a sense of shame. He should not have done what he did," a military source said.

The incident, which is being investigated by senior commanders, is hugely embarrassing to the British Army, which is trying to build bridges with local Afghan communities who have spent decades under Taliban rule.

It comes just days after a rogue Afghan soldier murdered three British troops from the same Gurkha regiment.

If the Gurkha being investigated by the Army is found guilty of beheading the dead enemy soldier, he will have contravened the Geneva Conventions which dictate the rules of war. Soldiers are banned from demeaning their enemies.

The Gurkha now faces disciplinary action and a possible court martial. If found guilty, he could be jailed. He is now confined to barracks at the Shorncliffe garrison, Kent.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "We are aware of an incident and have informed the Afghan authorities. An investigation is underway and it would not be appropriate to comment further until this is concluded."

The Ministry also said that four British servicemen had been killed in Afghanistan in 24 hours. The British death toll in the Afghan campaign since 2001 is now 322.


First Published: Sunday, July 18, 2010, 23:08

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