Natynczyk rebukes testimony of Afghan translator
Published Saturday, April 17, 2010 5:18PM EDT
Canada's top military commander is rejecting a claim that Canadian soldiers killed an unarmed Afghan teenager three years ago, an accusation that emerged at a parliamentary committee hearing earlier this week.
A former military translator told a parliamentary committee on April 14 that his information was second-hand, but said he had heard that Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan shot a teenager in the back of the head and then tried to cover up the death.
The translator and interpreter, Ahmadshah Malgarai, worked for the Canadian Forces in Kandahar, and claims they were in cahoots with Afghanistan's notorious security service.
Late Friday night, Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk released a letter written to the Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan, saying the June 18-19, 2007 raid did not happen the way the translator described in his testimony. He said that the events were well documented, and the killing was justified.
"The compound was suspected to be a staging area for rocket attacks against Kandahar airfield as well as improvised explosive device attacks against Canadian and coalition soldiers," he stated in the letter.
The compound had been under surveillance for almost a year before the raid, and the person who fired the shot was someone "providing support to the operation."
"During the mission an armed individual posed a direct and imminent threat to Canadian Forces soldiers as they entered the compound," Natynczyk wrote to committee chair Kevin Sorenson.
"A shooter who was providing support to the operation identified the individual and assessed that he was a threat, and shot the individual. The acts 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."
Natynczyk said in his statement that 10 prisoners were taken during the raid, and nine of them tested positive for explosives residue. Two of them made allegations that coalition troops planted a weapon on a deceased insurgent. "It is worth noting that one of the two individuals later retracted his allegation," the general said.
Malgarai had alleged in his testimony that the prisoners were innocent civilians, and that the soldiers rounded them up as part of a cover-up operation. "After the Canadian Forces wrongly killed a man, they panicked. They swept through the neighbourhood, arresting people for no reason," he said.
Malgarai also claimed in his testimony that an Afghan security commander suggested that a Canadian diplomat shoot a wounded detainee instead of handing him over to authorities.
"Colonel Yassin removed his pistol put it on the table and said ‘here's my gun, go shoot him, give me the body and I will justify it for you'."
While the Conservative government first dismissed his evidence as second-hand, Laurie Hawn, parliamentary secretary to the Defence Minister, later confirmed the gun incident by saying the threat was just bravado on the part of an Afghan working for the National Directorate of Security.
"The NDS official in question did not propose murder. He was dramatic, I assume," Hawn told reporters.
Natynczyk said the Canadian Forces national investigation service is conducting an assessment and urged anyone with information about the raid to come forward to give a sworn statement.