WikiLeaks report untrue: father of slain soldier
Published Tuesday, July 27, 2010 8:07PM EDT
The father of a slain Canadian soldier isn't putting much stock in a leaked U.S. military document that suggests his son was killed by friendly fire.
"It's not an accurate document," said father Barry Mellish, whose son was killed while serving in Afghanistan nearly four years ago.
Mellish said that several sources have told him that his son was killed during a gun battle with insurgents.
"I was told by soldiers who were there with my son when he was killed, by the military, and by a soldier that was standing right beside my son when he was killed," Mellish told CTV News Channel Tuesday from Truro, N.S.
On Monday, more than 90,000 secret U.S. military documents were put on the WikiLeaks website. Many of them are raw intelligence reports which are unedited.
"I don't believe these reports from WikiLeaks," said Mellish.
Warrant officer Frank Mellish, 38, was killed Sept. 3, 2006 in a volatile region of southern Afghanistan. Three other soldiers were also killed in the incident.
At the time, the military said the deaths occurred as "they fought to drive Taliban fighters" from an area near Kandahar.
Mellish was a veteran soldier and had been based in CFB Petawawa in eastern Ontario before his death.
The soldier's father said that Defence Minister Peter MacKay's office had contacted his daughter-in-law and told her that the leaked reports were false.
"She was told that there was no truth to this document whatsoever," Mellish said, adding that the report "has opened up the wounds all over again for the families of the four soldiers who were killed that day ... It's bringing the horror back."
Mellish said his youngest grandson is angry and upset because of the new reports.
"There's no need for this at all," said Mellish.
Pte. William Cushley, Warrant Officer Richard Nolan and Sgt. Shane Stachnik were also killed during the incident.
Stachnik's mother Avril said Tuesday that the death was due to shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade.
Speaking from Alberta in a telephone interview, she said the newly unveiled reports were disturbing for her family.
"It's terribly cruel and unnecessary," she said, adding that government staff had called to reaffirm that the death was not due to friendly fire.
The Canadian government has steadfastly denied the friendly fire report, CTV's Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife reported.
"MacKay's office insists the four Canadian soldiers were killed in a firefight with the Taliban. They say the only Canadian who was killed by friendly fire died the next day, on September 4, 2006," Fife said Monday.
The U.S. military has said that the leaked reports pose a threat to national security and have put soldiers in danger.
Gen. Rick Hillier (ret.) said that erroneous reporting often occurs, given the size of the bureaucracy guiding the war in Afghanistan.
He said that first reports are often based on flimsy evidence and need to be checked and re-checked before the truth is verified.
"I had a rule: first reports are always wrong, second reports and third reports are equally wrong, and only after that do you start to get to the truth."
He said that several drafts of military reports are often completed, but earlier versions are kept around. Some of those raw reports were leaked on Monday.
"I think that is what happened in this case," said Hillier, speaking to CTV News Channel from Ottawa on Tuesday.
He added that the Canadian military based their information about the insurgent battle on hundreds of witness accounts, including interviews with soldiers.
Hillier said that "millions" of pages may be leaked out, and many of them will contain information that is not verified.
"Just because they have a report doesn't mean it's correct."