Defence force chief General David Hurley has offered his condolences to the families of two boys, aged seven and eight, killed during an incident involving Australian soldiers in Afghanistan.
It is alleged Australian soldiers were responsible, but General Hurley says it is “premature” to determine how the incident occurred or who was responsible.
Defence is working with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Afghan authorities to determine the facts surrounding the deaths in northwestern Oruzgan province on Thursday.
Australian soldiers from the Special Operations Task Group were conducting a routine liaison patrol when the incident occurred, General Hurley confirmed in a statement today.
“We deeply regret that the International Security Assistance Forces were responsible for the unintended death of two young Afghan boys during the operation,” he said.
Australian personnel immediately reported the incident to Afghan government officials and military leaders in Oruzgan.
General Hurley said Defence takes the issue of civilian casualties very seriously, and soldiers operate under a strict set of rules to minimise unintended deaths and injuries.
Defence said no more details would be released while the incident was under investigation.
Earlier ISAF expressed its “deep regret” over the children’s deaths and said it remained committed to minimising civilian casualties.
“I offer my personal apology and condolences to the family of the boys who were killed,” General Joseph Dunford, commander of ISAF, said in a statement.
“I am committed to ensuring we do the right thing for the families of those we harmed, as well as for the community in which they lived. We take full responsibility for this tragedy.”
ISAF said the troops had opened fire at what they believed were insurgent forces. It added that a joint Afghan-ISAF team visited the district of Shahidi Hassas in Oruzgan yesterday to investigate and meet with local leaders.
Tony Abbott said civilian deaths in war were “absolutely tragic”.
“The horrible feature of war, one of the reasons why we should never lightly wage war, is that almost inevitably awful mistakes like this happen,” the Opposition Leader told reporters in Sydney.
When asked about the incident today, Julia Gillard said she wouldn’t be making any comments.
“I’m not going to deal with the details of the incident in question. The CDF (Chief of Defence Force) will be making a statement later today,” the Prime Minister told reporters in Sydney.Source: The Australian – “ADF confirms death of two Afghan boys”
- ADF confirms death of two Afghan boys (news.smh.com.au)
- ADF confirms death of two Afghan boys (bigpondnews.com)
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