Britain charges five Royal Marines with murder
Five members of the Royal Marines have been charged with murder in relation to an incident in Afghanistan in 2011.
Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) said seven marines were arrested on Thursday and the Royal Military Police (RMP) had arrested two more on suspicion of murder, one on Friday and the other on Saturday, taking the total number of arrests to nine.
Four have since been released without charge, pending further inquiries.
“The RMP has referred the cases of the remaining five Royal Marines to the independent Service Prosecuting Authority (SPA),” a statement from the MoD said.
“Following direction from the SPA these marines have now been charged with murder and they remain in custody pending court proceedings.”
The soldiers, believed to be members of 3 Commando Brigade, were arrested in connection with an incident which occurred while they were based in Helmand province last year.
The incident has been described as “an engagement with an insurgent”, with no civilians involved.
During a six-month tour of duty, which lasted from April to October last year, seven servicemen from 3 Commando Brigade were killed in action, all from 42 Commando.
The tour, Operation Herrick 14, was the unit’s fourth and saw the force score notable successes in capturing explosives from the Taliban.
The rules of engagement, largely derived from the Geneva Convention, dictate under what circumstances British troops are allowed to open fire, whether that is to prevent an attack by the enemy or in direct contact.
The arrests are thought to be the first time UK servicemen have been held on suspicion of such charges during the conflict in Afghanistan.
A Territorial Army soldier was investigated by military officials after shooting dead a suspected Taliban bomber in the Nahr-e-Saraj area of central Helmand in the summer of 2010.
Senior officers believed the man may have been an innocent farmer. But after an 18-month inquiry no charges were brought against Fusilier Duane Knott, who said he had no regrets over his action.