US command launches probe of Afghan civilian deaths

A May 20 US Forces-Afghanistan press release states that military officials have launched a criminal investigation into allegations that a “small number of US soldiers were responsible for the unlawful deaths of as many as three Afghan civilians.” The investigations also include allegations of illegal drug use, assault and conspiracy. No charges have been brought yet, but one soldier has been placed in pre-trial confinement.

The Army’s Criminal Investigation Command initiated the investigation after receiving credible information from the soldiers’ unit earlier this month. Command officials said in a released statement that they are “committed to the security and safety of the Afghan population, and will ensure any crimes are investigated fully and those responsible will be held accountable.”

The press release included no further details on the incident, or where it took place.

See our last post on Afghanistan and civilian casualties.

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  1. More details in Afghan civilian slayings
    From AFP, May 26:

    WASHINGTON — A US soldier who blew the whistle on his comrades over possible drug use and the deaths of three civilians in southern Afghanistan suffered a severe beating in retaliation, officials said Tuesday.

    The soldier was beaten after telling authorities about illicit drugs and then, while recovering in hospital, recounted his comrades’ alleged role in the deaths of three Afghan civilians, said two officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

    The soldier was “beaten within an inch of his life,” one of the officials told AFP.

    US Army authorities last week said they were investigating the “unlawful” deaths of three Afghans as well as allegations of illegal drug use, assault and conspiracy.

    Defense officials said the investigation focuses on at least 10 members from the 2nd Infantry Division’s Fifth Stryker Brigade, which deployed to Kandahar province in the summer of 2009 and initially suffered heavy casualties, officials said.

    One soldier has been placed in detention in the case and authorities said last week the probe was launched this month after receiving “credible information” from the soldiers’ unit earlier this month.

    The Afghan civilians were found dead at some point between January and March, officials said.