Sunday, April 18, 2010

Top general rejects claim Canada troops shot unarmed Afghan

OTTAWA — Canada's top military commander has rejected claims by a former translator in Afghanistan that Canadian troops shot and killed an unarmed Afghan three years ago.

Defence staff chief General Walt Natynczyk said in a letter late Friday to the head of a parliamentary commission that a Canadian Forces member followed appropriate "rules of engagement" when he fatally shot the man during on overnight June 18-19, 2007 raid of a compound where improvised explosive devices were being made for use against Kandahar airfield.

The man killed was "an armed individual (who) posed a direct and imminent threat to CF soldiers as they entered the compound," Natynczyk wrote in his letter to Kevin Sorenson, chair of the Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan.

"A shooter who was providing support to the operation identified the individual and assessed that he was a threat, and shot the individual," according to the general, who said the compound was being used as a staging area for attacks against the Kandahar airfield as well as strikes against Canadian and coalition forces.

"The actions of the shooter were an appropriate application of the rules of engagement and saved the lives of a number of Canadian Forces members that night."

The committee had heard testimony Wednesday from Malgarai Ahmadshah who alleged that in summer 2007, Canadian soldiers shot an unarmed man who they believed had been carrying a gun.

The soldiers then "panicked," sweeping through the neighborhood and arresting more than 10 people, said the Afghan-Canadian who was codenamed Pacha during his tenure as translator.

Ahmadshah said he had personally interrogated the detained Afghans at the insistence of Canadian troops to determine whether they had any links to the Taliban. He said they were "innocent men."

He delivered his testimony before a panel looking into claims that Canadian forces transferred detainees to Afghan authorities despite the risk that the prisoners would be tortured.

Ahmadshah said such transfers had taken place and accused the Canadian Forces of "subcontracting torture."

Canada has been roiled by accusations by a former Canadian diplomat in Afghanistan, Richard Colvin, who claims Ottawa ignored reports of torture submitted by prisoners held by Afghan security forces.

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