Seven Royal Marines arrested for Afghan ‘murder’

SEVEN Royal Marines have been arrested on suspicion of murder in relation to an incident in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced last night.

SEVEN Royal Marines have been arrested on suspicion of murder in relation to an incident in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced last night.

In a statement, it said that the Royal Military Police made the arrests in connection with an incident which occurred in 2011 after “an engagement with an insurgent”.

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No civilians were involved in the incident, and an investigation has now been launched by the Service Justice System.

It was not known last night if the marines were part of 45 Commando, based at Arbroath.

A defence ministry spokesman said: “The incident followed an engagement with an insurgent; there were no civilians involved. The investigation will now be taken forward and dealt with by the service justice system. These arrests demonstrate the department and the armed forces’ determination to ensure UK personnel act in accordance with their rules of engagement and our standards.

“It would be inappropriate to make any further comment while the investigation is under way.”

The statement did not name the marines or give any further details of the incident.

The MoD said it would conduct an internal review “to identify lessons learned”, and added: “The nature of that review will reflect the developments and, in due course, the outcome of the investigation.”

It is believed this is the first time UK servicemen had been arrested on such charges during the conflict.

Prosecutors in April decided not to charge a British soldier with the murder of an Afghan man who had been digging near a military base in Helmand. Duane Knott, a member of the Territorial Army, was investigated after shooting the man who he mistakenly believed was laying explosives.

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The Service Prosecuting Authority, set up to conduct independent prosecutions of military personnel, concluded there was no “realistic prospect of a conviction in this case”.

All British soldiers are subject to the criminal law of England wherever they are serving, while all civil offences are contained within military law.

When deployed on operations, soldiers are subject to international law, including the laws of armed conflict and the prescribed rules of engagement, and in some cases local civil law.

Under the army’s strict rules of engagement, troops should only open fire either when in direct contact with the enemy or to prevent an imminent attack.

While killing civilians or members of the Taleban suspected of planting IEDs is allowed, this is only permitted when no other course of action is possible. Soldiers know they may face prosecution if they make mistakes or act beyond the rules.

It was reported earlier this year that the Taleban were increasingly exploiting the rules of engagement, by hiding weapons in undergrowth near patrol routes. This meant British forces could not act against insurgents until they actually picked up their guns.

It has also been claimed in a BBC documentary that troops were being forced to act as “bait” to lure the Taleban into attacking them.

Britain still has 9,500 troops in Afghanistan. A total of 433 British personnel have been killed since 2001.

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